The Ivy Coach Daily

September 19, 2020

Brown Suspends Alumni Interviewing

Brown University will not offer alumni interviews this admissions cycle (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

Have you been prepping for your Brown University alumni interview? If so, might we suggest using that time to bake a cake or shoot some hoops instead? And why? Because Brown University has opted to suspend alumni interviews. In light of the spiking COVID-19 pandemic, it seems logical that a college would not sanction the idea of applicants meeting with alumni in coffee shops and all. So Brown’s decision to cancel in-person interviews should not come as too much of a surprise. But with Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and the like more ubiquitous than ever before, why would Brown — like so many other elite American universities — not transition to virtual interviews this year?

Brown Will Not Offer Virtual Alumni Interviews

It leaves us scratching our heads. Yet we have long argued on the pages of this college admissions blog that alumni interviews aren’t hugely important, that they are designed as much to make alumni feel like they’re a part of the admissions process to keep those donations coming as they are to actually gauge the strength of an applicant. So maybe Brown’s decision to suspend alumni interviews — be it in-person or virtual — shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. And Brown’s reasoning? It has to do, largely, with equity. As Caroline Nash reports for The Brown Daily Herald in a piece entitled “Brown suspends Alumni Interview Program for 2020-21 admission cycle,” “Concerns emerged such as varying levels of access to stable Wi-Fi for a 45-minute conversation and added uncertainty and anxiety for prospective students. The option of virtual interviews also raised legal problems.”

Brown Promotes Video Alternative to Alumni Interview

But we’re not letting Brown off that easy. You see, Brown didn’t just suspend alumni interviews. They’re also pushing a two-minute video alternative in which applicants can add another personal touch to their files. As Nash reports, “Applicants are encouraged to submit an optional two-minute video portfolio if they would like to share additional information about themselves. The Admission Office began offering applicants the chance to submit a video portfolio two years ago starting with the class of 2023, so some students may be familiar with the option.”

Brown’s Logic is Confounding, Decision Reeks of Virtue Signaling

So let’s get this straight. Brown is arguing that virtual interviews aren’t equitable because some applicants may have better access to stable Wi-Fi than others. Yet in that same breath, they’re putting forward this video alternative, videos which require Wi-Fi. Isn’t the way to increase access to offer more opportunities to applicants to share their stories with admissions officers? And isn’t a video submission only going to benefit those applicants with stellar production capabilities — in spite of the fact that Brown will surely argue the production quality of these videos won’t matter? Oy vey is right. We smell virtue signaling. Do you?

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