Colleges: Suspensions for protesting guns won't hurt admission changes

Feb. 24 (UPI) — Universities across the nation are assuring students the protests against gun violence won’t affect their admission prospects and acceptance letters won’t be revoked.

Instead, the schools — including Yale, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others — are standing by the students despite warnings from some high schools saying they would be suspended if they participate in demonstrations following the shooting deaths of 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school earlier this month.

The superintendent of a Houston-area district, Needville, said Tuesday protests, including walkouts, would result in three-day suspensions, even if parents authorized participation. In a letter obtained by the Houston Chronicle, Curtis Rhodes wrote: “Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved.”

Students around the nation have walked out of schools after the deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. Six days later, in one of the first such protests, hundreds of students walked more than 10 miles from their school in Boca Raton, Fla., to Douglas. West Boca High principal Craig Sommer joined the students in the walk.

But students elsewhere have been worried a mark on their “permanent record” will ruin their chances of getting into some colleges and receiving scholarships.

Applications for college admission typically include whether students have been disciplined at school. And in their letters of admission, many stipulate the offer could be rescinded if the student is suspended or behaves inappropriately.

Lee Coffin, vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, told The Washington Post, he couldn’t remember so many students asking about their admission prospects.

“There’s anxiety that is inextricably connected to this work and this moment,” Coffin said. “You see in this issue those two things have twinned.”

Dartmouth College told students Thursday: “Speak your truth.”

In a post on Twitter, the Ivy League school in New Hampshire, wrote: “Dartmouth supports active citizenship and applauds students’ expression of their beliefs. Participation in peaceful protest in no way jeopardizes your admission to Dartmouth, even if you are disciplined or suspended.”

On Friday, the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling encouraged admissions officers to respond to a survey so students and parents could know how disciplinary actions might be factored into admissions decisions. The organization created a website to centralize that information.

“Student activism at either the secondary or postsecondary level is not problematic on its face,” David Burge, the president of the organization, wrote. “Activism signals that students are ready to take control of the world around them, that they are finding their voice, building confidence, and are on the path to be engaged citizens.”

The Washington Post reported that some schools, including Stanford, hadn’t reacted publicly to the protests but none said it would factor in students’ chances.

Several schools — public and private — posted their views online.

“We have long held that students should not make decisions based on what they think will get them into college, but instead based on values and interests that are important to them,” Stu Schmill, dean of admissions and student financial services at MIT, wrote on his blog.

“Yale will NOT be rescinding anyone’s admission decision for participating in peaceful walkouts for this or other causes, regardless of any high school’s disciplinary policy. I, for one, will be cheering these students on from New Haven,” according to a post on the Yale admissions blog by a staffer.’

“If you participate in protests against gun violence and incur school discipline for walking out, you can rest assured you can report it to DePaul and we won’t hold it against you,” wrote Jon Boeckenstedt, DePaul’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing in a post on Twitter.

“UCLA is a community that supports active citizenship and applauds students’ expression of their beliefs. Participation in peaceful, meaningful protest and/or civil action in no way jeopardizes your admission or scholarship to UCLA. UCLA stands with you,” University of California, Los Angeles, posted on Twitter.

National school walkouts are scheduled for March 14 and April 20. And a march on the nation’s capital is scheduled for March 24.

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