Just a change in ‘practice,’ not ‘policy’
If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the president’s office.
Two days after the local newspaper revealed that the College of Charleston stopped using race as an admissions factor two years ago and failed to tell the public, the South Carolina public institution is reversing itself.
Interim President Stephen Osborne, who replaced the controversial president under which the no-race policy was implemented, issued a statement Tuesday that incredulously claimed the college “has not made any changes to its official admissions policies regarding race”:
There was no secretive effort to change the College’s policies by past administrations. And there was certainly no effort to reduce the College’s commitment to promoting diversity on campus.
Prior to 2016, the College’s admissions office conducted an additional review of students of color who were not initially recommended for admission to the College. The admissions office discontinued the practice after the summer of 2016 due to the positive results of various recruitment initiatives for students of color.
Osborne appears to be operating under a view of “official” that says the policy can be nullified at will based on the success of other initiatives to attract students of color, without the “official” policy changing.
He says the admissions office nonetheless told the College Board of “this change in practice,” even though nothing “official” changed.
The college had denied to The Post and Courier that the no-race change was imposed at the behest of President Glenn McConnell, a former lawmaker and Confederate gift shop owner who left the college last month, but Osborne is taking the reins of the issue now:
In consultation with the chief enrollment officer and after listening to key stakeholders across campus and reviewing our recruitment strategies, I have advised the admissions team, effective immediately, to implement an additional application review of students of color and to make it abundantly clear that, as an institution, we do and will consider race as a factor in our holistic review process.
The race-blind process that replaced the race-conscious process in 2016 – a “Top 10” pilot program that guarantees college admission to the top high-school graduates in seven counties – is not drawing enough African-American students, even though “our overall numbers of students of color are improving,” Osborne said: “We need every tool available to us in order to ensure access.”
The Post and Courier reports that the prior “practice,” as Osborne called it, was not only unknown to professors and students but was never brought up for a Board of Trustees vote.
Osborne’s claim that the college informed the College Board of this change is also complicated by the College Board’s listing of the College of Charleston as considering “Racial/Ethnic Status” in admissions, based on a survey that colleges completed between November and March. That factor was removed from the college’s listing on the College Board after the Post inquired.
The college’s 20 percent increase in students of color in the past decade has masked stagnant enrollment for African Americans, which peaked at 8.8 percent in 2002 and is now 7.8 percent.
h/t Inside Higher Ed