By Colton Williams
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and in anticipation to a series of planned protests and walkouts by high school students across the country, Sewanee Admissions released a statement assuring potential new students that participating in such protests would not endanger their admissions decisions at Sewanee.
“Sewanee’s community is one that encourages open and respectful participation in campus-wide conversations. In this spirit, our applicants should know that responsible participation in protests will have no negative impact on your admission decision,” the statement read.
Dean of Admission Lee Ann Backlund explained the statement as a clarification of existing procedure, and not a direct change in admissions policy.
“Generally,” Backlund said, “admitted students that are subject to disciplinary violations in their senior years will be reviewed by our admission committee to see if they are still fit to join us in the fall. This announcement is meant to reassure students that have been reprimanded by their high schools for participating in peaceful protest that any disciplinary issues will not negatively affect their admission decision.”
Dean Backlund directly acknowledged that the statement’s timing had to do with the student activists of Stoneman Douglas High School and the #NeverAgain movement.
“The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been leading a national conversation on gun control and asking our lawmakers to take action on an important issue,” Backlund said. “We felt it was important to reiterate Sewanee’s stance on civic duty by supporting these students’ right to protest.”
Backlund made clear that the Sewanee’s position of “open and respectful participation” does not include any acts of violence, hateful speech, or destruction of property, and if a student were to engage in such acts, it could negatively impact their admissions decision.
Arcadian Co-Director Katherine Ragosta (C’19) said she felt positively about the Admissions statement. “I hope that it will reiterate to our prospective applicants the fact that Sewanee’s atmosphere is one that not only allows, but encourages, open discussions about controversial issues.”
Ragosta went on to say, “All too often, high school seniors are overly conscious of their every move because they are worried about negatively impacting their chances of being admitted to their top choice colleges.” She said that this statement helps to reassure potential students that Sewanee supports civil participation in protests, and that the University lives up to the EQB motto.
“We take our work seriously,” Dean Backlund said. “We are working hard to build a respectful community of students who will make Sewanee better than ever.”