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Western Mass. colleges make fallback plans while waiting for Supreme Court affirmative action ruling

 The Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
The Supreme Court

The incoming president of Mount Holyoke College said she’s extremely concerned about the possible impact of a pending Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.

For decades, colleges and universities have been able to use race not as a determining factor in who gets admitted but as one of many factors that are considered. Lawsuits brought against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina could change that by taking race out of the equation.

Danielle Holley, president-elect of Mount Holyoke said she expects the court to rule against affirmative action.

She said the college in South Hadley, Massachusetts, is exploring other ways to maintain diversity on campus, including by broadening recruitment efforts in specific parts of the country.

“That would be targeting more urban areas in the Midwest, also in the South, just seeking qualified applicants to apply,” she said in an interview last week.

Amherst College coordinated an amicus brief for the defendants on behalf of 33 liberal arts colleges, including Mount Holyoke, Smith College, Hampshire College and Williams College.

"An adverse ruling could significantly impact the community that we seek to build each year with our incoming class," Matt McGann, Amherst's dean of admission and financial aid, said in an interview. "We anticipate that a ruling would be in effect immediately and would potentially change the way that we do our admission process as we begin the process for the class of 2028."

In a statement, UMass Amherst said it's been years since the school took "race into consideration as a determinative factor."

"No matter what the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, the university plans to increase its outreach to underrepresented students through the recruiting process, and we hope to partner more with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on strengthening the K-12 pipeline," spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said. "Since 2012 we have 66 more high schools in Massachusetts alone from which we are enrolling underrepresented students."

Meanwhile, an official at American International College in Springfield said the court decision would not have much impact there.

“At AIC, we actually don’t use an affirmative action policy," said Bianca Figueroa-Santana, AIC's director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. "A lot of our diversity has been organic. We serve a very diverse community and we’re lucky our student body reflects that diversity.”

With many expecting the court to strike down affirmative action, the Healey Administration last week announced an advisory council. It will focus on how to make higher education in the state inclusive for students of color.

“No Supreme Court decision can change the fact that Massachusetts welcomes and celebrates students of all backgrounds and experiences," Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll said in a statement. "We’re taking proactive steps today to help more students envision themselves on their chosen path toward higher education or a career."

The Supreme Court decision could come later this week.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.
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