We can’t continue to let it be business as usual, but we still need to be calm—acting deliberately and taking time to listen to our colleagues and constituents—and carry on—keeping our focus on NACAC’s longstanding core values like professionalism, trust, civility, fairness, and equity.
Once I got past the dizzying realization that we’re already in a new decade (seriously, where did the last one go?!), I realized this is a good time to think about the ways in which all of us in this profession can move forward.
Two books sit on my windowsill at work. One is called Keep Calm and Carry On and the other, Now Panic and Freak Out. In my opinion, we need a lot of both at this moment in time.
The list of reasons to “freak out” is extensive: increasing doubt among the American public about the value of higher education, understandable questioning about the black box of the admission process, Varsity Blues, concerns about the fairness of early decision, and worries about the influence of development and legacy on admission.
All these would be enough to contend with for a few years. Yet, when you add uncertainties about implicit bias in standardized testing, grade inflation, no-grade transcripts, student stress and burnout, declining enrollments, our own blind-spots, and oh, the ripple effects of the Department of Justice antitrust investigation of NACAC, it’s enough to make your head spin.
Yes, the removal of three sections of our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices (CEPP) is seismic. But the reality is that the CEPP didn’t hold the answer to the myriad dilemmas facing our profession. These issues needed answering with or without a code of ethics, mandatory or not. I could argue that the CEPP may have provided the sand in which we could bury our collective heads since these issues go beyond anything one document can cover. As we’ve become aware of these issues and their impact on students, it is past time for us to take stock, make change, and forge a new path forward.
And what about the “Keep Calm and Carry On” part? We can’t continue to let it be business as usual, but we still need to be calm—acting deliberately and taking time to listen to our colleagues and constituents—and carry on—keeping our focus on NACAC’s long-standing core values like professionalism, trust, civility, fairness, and equity.
Unless someone has a magic wand, the systemic issues won’t be easily undone. However, I’m enough of a pragmatic optimist to believe that we can find a better path forward. Our colleagues’ calls to fix the system can’t and won’t be ignored anymore, and the external pressures of litigation (successful or not), changing public perceptions, and increased media scrutiny are all signals that change is necessary and inevitable.
NACAC’s creation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Leadership in College Admission is a beginning. We need to stop being fearful of making mistakes and missteps, otherwise we will never move forward. We’re going to make errors along the way, and hopefully we learn from them, but we ultimately need forward motion. We need a little “freak out” to propel us to act, followed by a lot of “carry on” to help us navigate that change. So I’m hopeful that this is the first step toward the much-needed road to change we all crave in the decade ahead.
Ffiona Rees is a NACAC Board Director and senior associate director, evaluation and international admission at the University of California, Los Angeles (CA).