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The Ivy Coach Daily

August 7, 2022

Nosy Elite Colleges Want to Know Disciplinary History

Remember last year when The Common Application did away with the controversial disciplinary question? Many in the world of elite college admissions applauded the move to “ban the box,” deeming it about time. Their arguments against the prompt, while varied, often boiled down to the notion that students should not be penalized for the rest of their lives for mistakes they made when they were young. They should be offered a second chance. A number of folks also argued that the question was discriminatory since, through the years, the data suggests that underrepresented minority applicants have been more likely to indicate they’ve faced discipline than are white applicants or overrepresented minority applicants in college admissions, such as Asian American students. But just as soon as The Common Application removed the disciplinary question, many elite universities included a variation of the question on their supplements. That same trend is true this year for applicants to the Class of 2027.

Many Elite Universities Now Ask Disciplinary Questions on Supplements

Let’s take Emory University’s supplement as a case example (although know that Emory is not alone in asking disciplinary questions on their supplement). Emory actually asks applicants to the Class of 2027 three distinct disciplinary questions. If you don’t happen to see the questions on their supplement, they’re buried right at the very bottom of the last section — the writing section. You know. The section devoted to essays. Why not stick a few disciplinary questions right there at the bottom of the last section…no one will notice, right? Wrong. Emory’s three disciplinary questions, which are required of all applicants, read as follows: “(1) Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the 9th grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that results in a disciplinary action? These actions could include, but are not limited to: probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from the institution. (2) Have you ever been found guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony? Note, this does not include minor traffic violations such as speeding or parking tickets. (3) Did you ever receive an Other Than Honorable Discharge, Bad Conduct Discharge, or Dishonorable Discharge?”

Elite Universities Should Either Eliminate the Disciplinary Questions or Own It

We’ve never had a firm position on the disciplinary question and, frankly, it’s because we’re torn. You see, we believe in the power of redemption. Remember, over a decade and a half ago — that tells you how long we’ve been writing about elite college admissions! — when we urged the college admissions community to forgive Marilee Jones, the former Dean of Admissions at MIT, who was caught fabricating her academic degrees many years after she first applied for an entry-level position at MIT? But we also believe that young people who commit serious infractions should not have the same chances as those who do not commit serious infractions. If a C hurts one student, so too should cheating on a test hurt another student. Yet we understand that underrepresented minority students — often through no fault of their own but rather because of their circumstance — are more likely than are white applicants to have to indicate they’ve faced disciplinary action. And that deeply unsettles us. But, no matter which side of the issue one stands, can we all agree that it’s pretty sneaky for these schools to ask the question on their supplements after so many folks recently made a big to-do about how they’ve banned the so-called box?

What do our readers think? Dare we ask?

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