Provost Jenny Martinez speaks at the Faculty Senate meeting of October 5, 2023.

Provost Jenny Martinez discusses admissions at the first Faculty Senate meeting of the academic year following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling upending the long-standing practice of race-conscious admissions. (Image credit: Harry Gregory)

Stanford continues its work to understand and ensure compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that upended the long-standing practice of race-conscious university admissions, Provost Jenny Martinez told the Faculty Senate in its first meeting of the academic year on Thursday.

The university is considering measures permissible under the court’s ruling to help attract a broadly diverse student body, such as increased outreach, and to provide resources for short-term and long-term plans, added Martinez, who started as provost on Oct. 1.

“We remain committed to seeking a student body that is diverse in background, experience, interests, and perspectives,” Martinez said. “We are a diverse community, and that diversity is central to the education and research that occur here and its excellence. We also continue to be committed to a holistic review of every applicant to the university – a review that considers the broad array of accomplishments and life experiences of each student.”

Admission staff look at many indicators of achievement and promise, and work to factor in each applicant’s unique circumstances, Martinez said.

In light of the ruling, the university has been preparing for this year’s admission cycle while it continues to review what is needed in the future.

Short-term adjustments

For the immediate undergraduate admission cycle beginning shortly, the university is making adjustments to ensure its process is compliant with the law, Martinez said. For example, application readers won’t receive applicants’ race and ethnicity checkbox information. The university also has made minor adjustments to application essay questions.

Moreover, application readers are being trained to review applications in compliance with the ruling and the federal government’s implementation guidelines.

“That means, under these legal guidelines, that race and ethnicity as such can no longer be factors considered in the process,” Martinez explained. “Applicants may still share information about their race in the course of describing their achievements and experiences, but as the Supreme Court said, it is the achievement or experience that can be evaluated, not the race of the individual.”

No other major changes are being made this year to the undergraduate admission policies, Martinez said.

At the graduate and professional level, the Offices of the General Counsel and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE) have been communicating with schools and departments to support admission policies and practices that comply with the ruling, and to share information about legal, race-neutral strategies for ensuring that excellent students from all backgrounds enroll at Stanford, Martinez said.

Longer-term review

Looking further, outreach will be an even more important part of the university’s admission process, including going out and making the opportunities at Stanford known to prospective students and ensuring they know that they will be welcome and supported at Stanford, Martinez explained.

“Outreach is already an important part of our admission process, and is going to be an even more important part of that work that we do this year and beyond,” she said.

For example, prospective students should be made aware of the university’s extensive need-based scholarship program that supports the affordability of a Stanford education, Martinez said. The Undergraduate Admission office is in the process of strategic planning and hiring additional staff to support outreach efforts. The university is also working with peer universities through the Consortium on Financing Higher Education on outreach and education, and VPGE is pursuing similar efforts at the graduate level.

Stanford is supporting programs like the Stanford Digital Education initiative, which works with the National Education Equity Lab to offer college-level Stanford courses to low-income Title I high schools. “The goal is to provide educational resources where they are lacking, and to help ensure that high-performing, low-income students have a better chance of making it to a place like Stanford,” Martinez said.

In addition, there is an ongoing faculty-led process to conduct a broader review of the implications of the Supreme Court ruling and of Stanford’s undergraduate admission policies, and to consider whether any more changes should be made in the future, Martinez said.

“This is work that requires thought, consultation, and time, so it is not being rushed to meet this year’s admission cycle,” she continued. “Faculty are centrally engaged in this work, and we’re in conversation about what kinds of engagement opportunities with the broader university community, including students, might be useful this year.”