U.S. Department of Education affirmative action policy change will not affect Geneseo, Admissions says

Visiting parents and prospective students use the entrance to the Admissions office in Doty Hall (pictured above). New federal education policy rescinds Obama-era race-based affirmative action policy, but the change is unlikely to affect Geneseo (Emily Ludwig/staff photographer).

President Donald Trump’s government released a statement over the summer rescinding former president Barack Obama’s policies regarding race-based affirmative action. Despite this change, Geneseo does not plan to alter its admission process, according to Vice President for Enrollment Management Meaghan Arena. 

The Department of Justice stated that it is abandoning 24 federal documents because it believes they are “outdated” according to POLITICO. Out of these documents, seven were drafted when Obama was president, POLITICO continues. 

These recommendations from the Obama administration instructed both schools and colleges to take race into account when considering student populations, according to POLITICO.

Schools that continue to practice race-based affirmative action could be investigated by the Department of Justice, according to The New York Times. 

Geneseo is still comfortable with how it carries out its admissions process, Chief Diversity Officer robbie routenberg said. 

“As long as what we’re doing is in alignment with Supreme Court decisions, we have no concerns,” routenberg said. “If we were to deviate from what’s been upheld by the Supreme Court, then we should be concerned. But that’s not where we are, because while race, economics and first generation are factors, they are not the only factor.”

Arena and Director of Admissions Kim Harvey reiterated that Geneseo will maintain its holistic admissions process. 

This holistic process considers multiple factors when evaluating students, according to Harvey. Geneseo looks at students’ academics, including the specific school they attended and the opportunities at that school in regard to available courses, according to Harvey. 

Additionally, the college examines students’ test scores, extracurricular activities, essays, letters of recommendation and any other materials included in the application, Harvey said. The college exercises a holistic review process in order to uphold its core values, according to Harvey. 

“We see ourselves as being a very inclusive and diverse community,” Harvey said. “That is going to be representative of the class that we bring in. That is our goal.”

The college is also working to ensure that a diverse group of students apply to Geneseo, according to Arena. 

“We have undertaken several initiatives to try to increase the number of underrepresented students who are interested in Geneseo in the first place so that when we get into the admissions process. We’re reading applications, we can look at the whole student,” Arena said. 

21 percent of Geneseo’s student body is comprised of multicultural students, according to the college’s Fact Book. Only the number of Latino students has consistently grown from 2013 to 2017, according to the Fact Book.

Admissions has hosted programs that recruit school counselors, admission professionals and students from underrepresented backgrounds at the college in order to increase the number of students applying from diverse backgrounds, according to Harvey. The office hosts events in New York City to attract students and additionally provides a bus program for downstate students to visit the college during Accepted Knight’s Days, Harvey said. 

The college also has an admissions counselor in New York City and another on Long Island to engage with students there directly, Arena said. 

Harvey underscored the Access Opportunities Program as important in preserving diversity on-campus. AOP is a transitional program for students from underrepresented backgrounds and includes the Educational Opportunity Program and the Transitional Opportunity Program. 

Some students, including political science major junior Selennah Gonzalez who is Hispanic, are pleased that the college is maintaining a holistic review process. 

“I know that Geneseo in recent years has tried to open up the diversity on-campus,” Gonzalez said. “I’m glad to hear that they’re sticking to what works and not just easily persuaded by whatever Trump yanks out of his mind.” 

At the same time, some students believe that affirmative action is still stigmatized by society. Often, affirmative action is not discussed in a more public setting because those who are from underrepresented backgrounds do not feel safe talking about the issue, psychology major senior Kevin Vazcones whose parents are from Ecuador said. 

“When we talk about actual struggles, actual hardships going on in our society, there’s always this sense of judgement from more predominant groups,” Vazcones said. “There’s no heavy talk amongst each other in large groups because we feel like we’re going to be stereotyped as those angry people of color, but that’s not the case.”

Gonzalez is still concerned with how the administration’s position will impact college admissions across the country. 

“I am concerned that some institutions might just take Trump’s words to heart and then some groups throughout the country might be neglected because they just think that race-based affirmative action is insignificant,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll probably see a decrease in diversity throughout institutions in America and certain groups will probably be neglected.”

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