CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better reflect how the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling impacted this university’s admissions process.

Several University of Maryland administrators, faculty and students hope to mitigate the potential impacts of affirmative action policies being struck down for college admissions.

This university is in the midst of its first admissions cycle after a June 2023 Supreme Court decision prohibited higher education institutions from considering a student’s race in admissions processes. The decision ruled that race-based affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause, undoing decades of precedent on how universities conduct admissions.

The ruling affects prospective students starting in the 2023-24 admissions cycle. It has already impacted this university’s early action admissions process and will also impact the regular admissions process. Early action decisions were released by Feb. 1 and regular decisions are expected to be released by April 1.

On June 29, the day of the Supreme Court decision, university president Darryll Pines sent a campus-wide email expressing disappointment with the ruling. The email, which was also signed by several administrators and 15 deans, emphasized the university’s commitment to campus diversity.

“We will remain a national leader by encouraging and supporting students of all backgrounds as they apply, enroll and graduate from the University of Maryland,” the email read. “The educational value of campus diversity is one we will not sacrifice.”

Prior to the June 2023 Supreme Court decision, this university considered 26 factors in its “holistic review process” for applications, including race and ethnicity, Pines told The Diamondback in September. This university now considers 24 factors for admissions and removed the consideration for race and ethnicity in accordance with the ruling, Pines added.

Despite the changes to the admissions process, Pines emphasized the importance of remaining committed to supporting and welcoming students from all backgrounds.

“We believe a diverse campus is educational by its core,” Pines said. “Excellence comes from all groups and the combination of excellence is synonymous with diversity.”

[3 years after joining program to diversify faculty, UMD sees mixed progress]

Georgina Dodge, this university’s diversity and inclusion vice president, said although she was not surprised to hear the June ruling, she was “disappointed” that the majority of the Supreme Court believed affirmative action policies are no longer necessary.

“It’s so important for us to have that diversity of thought, that diversity of perspectives, diversity of backgrounds,” Dodge said. “Race is one way in which that gets determined in our country.”

About 61 percent of the first-time students admitted to this university in 2023 did not identify as white, according to data from the institutional research, planning and assessment office.

Dodge referenced how some states that have eliminated racial considerations for admissions in the past, such as California and Michigan, have historically seen a decrease in applicant diversity. Admissions leaders at the University of Michigan and the University of California system told the Supreme Court they have fallen short of diversity goals after using race-neutral admissions techniques, The Washington Post reported last July.

In a statement to The Diamondback, Shannon Gundy, this university’s undergraduate admissions director, wrote that for the current admissions cycle, this university has “worked to recruit a diverse applicant pool and, as always, will work to yield an exceptionally academically talented and diverse class of incoming students.”

Moving forward, Dodge said she hopes universities will partner with more K-12 schools that serve underrepresented populations to help students navigate the application process and prepare them for higher education.

Considering student experiences through written materials in the application could help ensure that this university can admit a diverse class, she added.

[Maryland legislators aim to ban legacy admissions post-affirmative action]

Like Dodge, Kimberly Griffin, the education college dean, noted that although universities cannot consider students’ racial identities through a question on the application, admissions can still consider someone’s background through other materials such as written responses.

Griffin said some prospective students questioned how the June 2023 decision would impact their admissions into certain universities. This could create a “chilling effect” on whether students will apply to certain institutions, she added. But Griffin reaffirmed this university’s commitment to diversity on campus for prospective students.

“We still are very committed to diversity and to equity and to justice and to having a campus community where everybody can thrive,” Griffin said. “We just got to figure out a different way to do it.”

Some current students at this university also expressed concerns about campus diversity in response to the decision.

Junior history major Tamara Zuniga said her background as a “brown Latina” is a core part of her identity. As a first-generation college student, Zuniga said she is “incredibly privileged” to attend college after her family immigrated to the United States. Zuniga does not often find other women who look like her in the anthropology and history fields, she added.

While reflecting on her college journey, Zuniga said that failing to account for her cultural identity does not accurately depict her as a person and what she brings to the university.

“If you strip away my cultural identity, you won’t truly get to understand who I am because my life is so intertwined with that, especially my experiences in the U.S.,” Zuniga said.

Divya Bhat, a sophomore public policy major, said she felt the June 2023 decision pushed college admissions “back in time.”

Bhat, the vice president of this university’s Asian American Policy Union, said the ruling exemplified a common stereotype that portrays Asian students as “model minorities” who are gifted both educationally and economically. Asian Americans have a wide range of identities and the ruling could be a big hit to Asian Americans from low-income backgrounds, she added.

“Historically, your race affects so many facets of your life. It affects your socioeconomic class. It affects where you live, so then it naturally will affect what resources you had, especially in high school,” Bhat said. “So I think race is an important part of college admissions.”