by Jewel Caruso
Will Walker Jr. (first-year doctoral student) was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing the recent SCOTUS decision on affirmative action and the impact on admissions for underrepresented students.
The article, written by Eric Hoover, "A Time to Tear Down, a Time to Build Up: The end of race-conscious admissions brought a season of doubt, resolve, and ambivalence" revealed stories of students with minoritized identities concerned about the future of race-conscious admissions and diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education.
Walker, a Black student, related how he reflected on his college application process for his undergraduate degree program when advising Aminah Augustin over the summer. Augustin, a rising senior, attended an academic camp at Princeton University, sponsored by Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America. LEDA is a rigorous academic camp where Walker was a program facilitator and taught a seven-week class on leadership.
Walker recalled how the decision brought doubt about his place in higher education and how he felt frustration when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. called for color-blindness. “Some people in our country are like, ‘We don’t see race," Walker said. "But when I look in the mirror, I cannot unsee race. When you look at me on the street, you cannot unsee race, or all the assumptions, beliefs, and histories that come with it."
Despite the ruling against race-conscious admissions, Walker reported feeling a small hope in that institutions are still able to recognize applicants’ reflections on "how race affected [their] life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise."
However, the joint ruling in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. The University of North Carolina limits declarations of racial status, culture or heritage to experiences "tied to that student’s courage and determination" or "tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university."
Walker identified how his undergraduate admissions essay detailed his experience in reading a textbook on neglected diverse perspectives in a mostly white social-students class. He remarked in The Chronicle that the process made his experience feel "very glamorized." Walker explained, "I took these really awful negative experiences and made them pretty for someone else to read."
Hoover describes how the impact will be more "fraught" for nonwhite applicants as many do not want "to describe race-related hardship or trauma." Walker raises important questions in response to this, "How do they feel valued now? How do they stand out? How do they convey that they are worthy and deserving of admission?"
Despite this, Walker shared with Hoover he is still a "believer" in higher education with the goal of becoming a tenured professor, and potentially, a college president. He desires to be involved with DEI as well "if that’s something that still exists in five to seven years."
In a LinkedIn post by Walker, he provided more insight on his interview experience with Hoover. He reflected on how he wanted to "highlight the dark side of colorblind racism within legal statutes - particularly those related to the use of race in college admissions." Walker continued that the intention of the law will not stop the challenges underrepresented students will face in the college admissions process.
Walker is a first-year doctoral student at the McBee Institute and joins as a presidential graduate fellow, UGA’s most prestigious honor for incoming graduate students. He is also an alumnus of the LEDA Scholars Program.
To view the full article, visit: https://www.chronicle.com/article/a-time-to-tear-down-a-time-to-build-up