About that Loophole: Good Luck, Admissions Officers
Near the end of the majority opinion of Chief Justice Roberts in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, we find the following potential loophole:
nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise. But, despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today.
Fair enough. Colleges and universities cannot use such essays as a cover for programs they have hitherto been running. In other words, such an essay would need to be open to applicants of all races and backgrounds. Curious about what that might entail, I gave chatGPT the following instructions:
Write a 300-word essay in the voice of a white high school senior from Greenwich, Connecticut. His name is Charles "Chug" Maxwell IV. During the summer after his junior year in high school, Chug's parents (Charles "Chaz" Maxwell III and Elizabeth "Biffie" Cavendish Maxwell) paid for him to live with an indigenous community in Brazil, providing volunteer assistance in the transition from slash-and-burn agriculture to sustainable coffee growing. The prompt for the essay--which will be used by the admissions committee at Swarthmore College along with the balance of Chug's application--is as follows: "Describe how race has affected your life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise."
Here is what it produced:
Title: Navigating Identity: A Journey of Awareness and Understanding
As a white high school senior from the affluent town of Greenwich, Connecticut, my name is Charles "Chug" Maxwell IV. I have been privileged to live a life shielded from the harsh realities that many face due to racial discrimination. However, a transformative experience during the summer after my junior year opened my eyes to the complex impact of race on people's lives.
Accompanied by my parents, Charles "Chaz" Maxwell III and Elizabeth "Biffie" Cavendish Maxwell, I ventured to Brazil to work with an indigenous community. Our mission was to assist in their transition from slash-and-burn agriculture to sustainable coffee growing. Little did I know that this journey would become a catalyst for self-discovery and understanding.
Living amongst the indigenous community, I observed their deep connection to their ancestral lands and traditions. It was in this setting that I realized how race shapes individual experiences and identities. The people I encountered faced challenges far different from my own. I witnessed the resilience and strength with which they navigated a world that often dismissed their voices.
In the midst of this experience, I was confronted with the stark contrast between my privilege and their struggles. It ignited a desire within me to use my privilege to advocate for equity and justice. This encounter with racial disparity inspired me to take action within my own community, challenging systemic biases and working towards inclusivity.
Returning to Greenwich, I have since dedicated myself to promoting cultural understanding and fostering dialogue about race and privilege. I have initiated discussions at school, organized awareness campaigns, and encouraged diversity in our curriculum. Through these efforts, I strive to create an environment where everyone's unique experiences and perspectives are respected and valued.
This eye-opening encounter allowed me to realize the immense power and responsibility that come with my own racial identity. It taught me that the path to true equality lies in acknowledging and dismantling the barriers created by race. By embracing this journey of awareness and understanding, I aim to contribute to a more just and inclusive society, one that celebrates the beauty of diversity.
In conclusion, my experience with the indigenous community in Brazil has profoundly shaped my understanding of how race influences our lives. It has prompted me to use my privilege to stand against discrimination and advocate for equality. Through my continued efforts, I hope to foster a world where every individual's race is not a burden but a source of celebration and empowerment.