To the UConn Community:
Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that will challenge the ability of UConn, and higher education broadly, to meet America’s ongoing commitment to building a more just and equitable society.
The cases, which were heard by the court in October, concerned challenges to decades-old legal precedent that established the right of universities to take a holistic approach to setting admissions policies intended to build a diverse, welcoming student body.
The university and its president do not typically comment on cases before the court or its decisions unless those decisions have a direct impact on UConn. While we still need to thoroughly review the lengthy decision to fully understand its implications, this one unquestionably does impact us – and we are deeply dismayed and disappointed by it.
We know that the best way to build a vibrant and diverse student body is to use the tested, reliable methodology of the holistic admissions process. In states where race-conscious admissions processes have been banned, such as Michigan and California, universities have struggled to maintain diverse student bodies, with the number of historically underrepresented applicants dropping precipitously since such bans were adopted.
It is essential to UConn’s mission as a public university that we create and maintain a student body in which people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds can thrive. Our great challenge now in the wake of these decisions is continuing to build on that vital mission with the tools we still have available to us.
This is an issue that cannot be fully understood without the context in which it exists: the roles that race and racial injustice have played in the long history of the United States from its earliest days to the present.
American colleges and universities, including ours, have an essential moral obligation to do all we can not only to promote and enhance diversity for its own sake within our student body, but to play a pivotal role in helping to reverse through our actions, policies, and practices what President Lyndon B. Johnson famously referred to as “the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice” that existed and still exists in American society. That was one of multiple goals of our longstanding admissions process.
This is not only a question of principle. Evidence abounds of the practical, concrete benefits to American society of enabling students to learn in a diverse community where they benefit from a wide variety of experiences, ideas, and perspectives.
Connecticut, like UConn, is home to a diverse population statewide – racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically – and we take great pride in providing access and financial aid to students of every background and walk of life. The students learning in our classrooms and experimenting in our laboratories today will soon be our doctors and nurses, our lawyers and accountants, our children’s teachers, the elected officials in our communities, and the innovators and creative thinkers whose ideas and energy will bring positive change and growth to our society for decades to come.
Through the efforts of UConn’s Division of Enrollment Planning and Management, the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and our individual schools and colleges, we have made significant progress in this important endeavor.
The Class of 2026, for instance, is the most diverse in the history of our institution. Forty-seven percent are students of color, and nearly 27% are from backgrounds historically underrepresented in higher education. This is not by accident, and it is not an anomaly: Prior to this year’s first-year students, the classes of 2024, 2023, and 2022 were successively the most diverse in university history.
Our ability to recruit and retain a diverse student population is drawn from a dynamic learning environment that prizes inclusion and equity across academic, social, and cultural spheres.
Our strategy to maintain and enhance diversity among our student body includes:
- The continued development and operationalization of pipeline/early college awareness outreach for prospective students through UConn Summer LEAD, the campus visit program, outreach to community-based organizations and urban school districts, and partnering with existing campus programs in schools, colleges, centers, and institutes.
- New and strengthened relationships with influencers who help shape the college selection process, including campaigns and programming aimed at parents, teachers, school administrators, advisors, alumni, and community-based programs such as our Promise Programs.
- Generating additional opportunities to increase application submissions by multicultural students, identifying potential students early, utilizing current students, Application Day programs, engagement with high schools, FAFSA completion workshops and through direct communications.
- Developing and enhancing post-admit activities and outreach such as yield visits, programs targeting high schools, outreach to admitted students from campus partners, and communications campaigns.
UConn also has abundant existing assets to help ensure that students of every background can thrive. They include:
- Areas of study at UConn include Africana Studies, Human Rights, Judaic Studies, Latino and Latin American Studies, Urban and Community Studies, Asian and Asian American Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
- Our seven cultural centers and programs offer a rich experience of education, leadership opportunities, and the chance to forge lifelong bonds among peers.
- Learning communities like ScHOLA²RS House, La Comunidad Intelectual, WiMSE House, and the newly launching BSOUL House create meaningful relationships with faculty mentors and peers, and provide a welcoming environment for deeper learning and student success.
- New initiatives across the university, such as the Office of Health Equity and Access to Care within Student Health and Wellness; the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion within the School of Engineering; the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Research Initiative within the Office of the Vice President for Research; the Constance Belton Green Diversity fund within the School of Law; and the creation of a Chief Diversity Officer position at UConn Health all demonstrate the breadth and depth of our commitment to inclusion and equity for our students, faculty, and staff.
- ODI, in collaboration with UConn Hartford and UConn Health, has launched the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Initiative, which bridges efforts across all three campuses to improve health outcomes by dismantling racism as a barrier to healthy, meaningful, and full participation at UConn and across the state.
- Our music ensembles include the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra and Voices of Freedom Gospel Choir, one of the oldest university gospel choirs in the nation. The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, William Benton Museum of Art, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, Contemporary Art Galleries, and von Schlippe Gallery (Avery Point) offer a rich array of exhibitions and performances that explore the arts of many cultures and ethnicities.
We will continue to grow and adapt to effectively build on these commitments, today’s decision notwithstanding. As much as anything, only time will allow us to understand the full impact today’s decision will have on UConn and the most effective strategies to mitigate it. But as I told the community when the cases were heard in October, no matter what, our commitment to vital, unifying, and transformative diversity will remain one of our core values at UConn, and our actions – in admissions, in academics, in culture – will match our values. We have come too far as a university and as a country – and have further to go still – to abandon the progress which has been so painstakingly made.