Lorie Shaull [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

February 24, 2018; Washington Post

High school students, both scared and outraged after yet another mass shooting at an American high school earlier this month have emerged as leaders of a #NeverAgain movement, calling for action on gun control in the hope that no other students ever need experience a massacre at a school.

Sadly, for students across the country weighing in with marches and protests, they’ve also had to wonder if their actions would prevent them from being accepted into the college of their choice. University admissions offices have fielded calls and questions about possible consequences. As harbors of intellectual thought and exercises, many universities have begun issuing proactive statements clarifying that peaceful protests will not penalize prospective students for using their voice as active citizens.

In the highly fraught and often opaque world of college admissions, it was a rare moment of clarity. As Dartmouth College told students Thursday: “Speak your truth.”

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) set up a separate webpage to distribute information to college seekers and their families. NACAC President, David Burge, declared that, indeed, “Activism signals that students are ready to take control of the world around them, that they are finding their voice, building confidence, and are on the path to be engaged citizens.”

At Brown University, admissions officials have received questions from students and parents, said Brian Clark, a university spokesman. On Friday, they made their position clear: “Applicants to Brown: Expect a socially conscious, intellectually independent campus where freedom of expression is fundamentally important. You can be assured that peaceful, responsible protests against gun violence will not negatively impact decisions on admission to Brown.”

While much of the attention today is on protests related to calls for gun control in the wake of the recent shooting in Florida, Yale University’s statement on their admissions blog was wide enough to include future protests on other topics, stating, “Yale will NOT be rescinding anyone’s admission decision for participating in peaceful walkouts for this or other causes, regardless of any high school’s disciplinary policy.”

Images of young, grieving students stepping up and demonstrating leadership on a topic where they feel adults have failed them have captured the nation’s attention. Dartmouth’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid at Dartmouth, Lee Coffin, observes, “To me, it has been remarkable to witness this youth movement. They’re showing that they do care—they have a voice; they’re paying attention. We’re encouraging students on both sides of this issue to express themselves. That’s part of the discourse that the country needs.”—Jeannie Fox