Episode 59: How To Prepare For The Removal Of Affirmative Action with Jonathan Martin

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Shiro Hatori
Hey, everyone. Hey everyone. Welcome to the higher ed dimension podcast hosted by concept 3d. If you like our content, please follow it subscribe to us on Spotify, Apple, and all the other streaming platforms. And if you’re on Apple, specifically, make sure to drop us a comment. We’d love to hear what you think about the show. My name is Shiro and I will be your host today. And today we’ll be covering the Supreme Court’s decision to dismantle affirmative action in college admissions. And for this topic, I’m really excited to have concept 3d is very own Jonathan Martin joining us today. Jonathan was recently serving as the Assistant Director of Admissions at Yale, which is why I brought him on right. He’s got a lot of experience in admissions. And he’s currently now serving as an account executive at concept 3d. Welcome to the podcast, Jonathan.

Jonathan Martin
Thanks. Sure. I want to tell the listeners that Shiro is a real person, I go into the office and I’ve seen him face to face with all of you who are wondering, in his virtual world sure, is very much flesh and blood. But yeah, I’m excited to be here. I listen to the podcast, a ton. And, yeah, I think this decision is one that we’ve been expecting for a while. But, you know, hopefully, if you haven’t yet prepared for the impact of this, you know, we’ll share some ideas and insights into how you can prepare now that it has happened.

Shiro Hatori
Thanks, Jonathan. And I do ask all my guests this as an icebreaker. What do you love about higher ed,

Jonathan Martin
I love just how higher education is, despite its flow, as is still very much the best path to climbing up the socio economic ladder. You know, I, myself, and like, no, a direct beneficiary of that, like my, but my dad was very much like the first person in his family to go to college and university and just went from being kind of this kid in the Scottish countryside to working for like one of the biggest banks in the world, traveling all around the world, you know, had me my brother had us long into Sonos off to, like, Get the best education possible, which included sending us off to Yale, and, you know, that was within kind of a 40 period, 40 year period, like our family went from, like, solidly working class to being, you know, very much like, like working in like international locations, you know, having these fantastic careers. So universities, I think very much are still the best path to climbing up that socio economic ladder. I felt that personally, but having worked in admissions, I’m also seeing that now, like, I’m still connected to a bunch of my admit, admits on LinkedIn, and it is amazing to see what they’re all doing, like, you know, high powered lawyers working for NASA. It’s just, it’s a lot of fun, just to see where people are, like, you know, even within 10 years of being a Yale student.

Shiro Hatori
Right, and working out. Yeah, I’m sure you know, you get some of the smartest and brightest students in the country as well. So that probably helps a little bit too, right.

Jonathan Martin
Yeah, I mean, I think you’ve heard many people probably have heard this, but like, we could admit, like two to three times as many students if it was if we had the spaces, there’s just so much debt, right? Yeah, I actually, I, you know, I myself was waitlist at Yale. And like, ended up getting off the waitlist. But I still remember like, I had, like, gone into place at like, University College of London, a couple of other universities in the UK, and I was gonna be fine either way. But yeah, I just knew that like, going to Yale was still very much my first choice. And more than anything, like I think just having the right attitude, going to college, set me up for success. So yeah, these these kids, like, we don’t admit, like, I’m certainly still going to be like, at an elite selective institution, wherever that is.

Shiro Hatori
Definitely. And, you know, mentioning the social economic status, I’m working on a separate content piece outside of this podcast, but recent research shows that if you do drop out of college, the average earnings is 33% As someone who did complete a two year four year institution, so you know, definitely a stark metric analysis of that actually. So definitely echo that same feeling.

Jonathan Martin
Yeah, yeah, it is. Pretty scary to have all the debt Add without the college degree. So, yeah, I think is even if it’s like taking an extra year or two to finish like, is as much as possible, like universities got to support students beyond just admitting them, like, hopefully getting them to graduate on time. And some of that’s a little bit out of their hands. Like, if it’s like family circumstances, financial reasons. But yeah, we definitely want to make sure we graduate everyone on time as quickly as possible.

Shiro Hatori
Definitely. So, June 29th. Right Supreme Court decides to dismantle affirmative action in admissions and college admissions based on two different court cases that combine this relates with UNC and Harvard. And based on our podcast here, where we talk a lot about marketing, right, whether that’s in admissions and recruitment, alumni, marketing communications, right, we talk a lot about how it relates to these topics, and how do you think this decision, this federal decision will impact admissions and marketing?

Jonathan Martin
Well, just before I answer that fun facts, June 29, is actually my birthday. So this was like quite the birthday gift. Yeah, so yeah, I think mostly, admission luck, because enrollment marketing professionals, they, there’s gonna be a huge switch to social economic outreach. In the past, I think a lot of universities have probably already been thinking about this. And I know that there was like the Fisher v. Texas case back in like 2015, or 2016. So, you know, I think a lot of admissions officers have already been thinking about ways that they could switch to more social economic outreach. But that’s the that’s the big way like, universities that have d i, outreach programs, may want to consider pivoting to like more socio economic based outreach programs if they don’t already have them, which is a little tough, because as well, like race, socio socio economic geography, they’re all really tangled up together. So like a, an outreach program may have like hit on all of those different factors. But still, like maybe known as a DI outreach program, the law, the admission officers will have to more explicitly I think, switch in light of this decision.

Shiro Hatori
Gotcha. And that’s because if I’m understanding correctly, there’s, there’s ties, to different races with social economic factors is that that’s the point you’re making, right?

Jonathan Martin
Yeah, so I think there are, you know, parts of this country, like, in a city like rurals, that are significantly like socially, economically disadvantaged, and often like, like, not so much with the rules, necessarily, but like in the cities, you have, like, more racial diversity. And, you know, I think universities in trying to be as diverse as possible in the past, did a lot of outreach to like rural as well as like, like in a city kind of programs. And as a result, they were, you know, recruiting students who are diverse on a whole bunch of different factors race being one of them. I think the this decision, though, forces universities to be much more explicit about it being socio economic outreach, as opposed to geography outreach as opposed to race. And the reason why I’m saying that is because like, this decision impacts, like, how admissions officers read applications, and makes decisions about who to admit, but it’s not a stretch to think that the next decision could impact like outreach programs that are explicitly trying to recruit more racially diverse students like those could also potentially be found unconstitutional. So I think that’s why admission marketers, you know, may have to start looking more seriously at like socio economic outreach programs as opposed to what they may have been doing in the past.

Shiro Hatori
Gotcha. Do you think that, you know, making this shift, your recommendation is to make this shift into more social economic factors, right. Do you think That’s a disadvantage or an advantage to where we were before. It’s a bit of a opinionated loaded question. But,

Jonathan Martin
um, I don’t think it’s going to be a disadvantage. I think a lot of universities may have already started doing this work. Seeing as like, affirmative action has, you know, potentially could have potentially been removed like earlier than, obviously, like this year. I think there are organizations like community based organizations that universities have wanted to be partnered with, for a really long time. Some of those are like, very small and regional, like policy. Like when I was an admissions officer at Colorado was one of the states that I read. And the Aspen Institute used to do this, like fantastic College Fair, where they busing students all like throughout like western Colorado, or western slopes, as they like to call it, to ask them for this, like message call was fair. And that group of students was extremely diverse, socio economically, lots of first generation students, there was also quite a significant amount of like racial diversity. So I think it’s those types of organizations that universities should be making a more conscious, conscientious effort of connecting with if they don’t already do so. There are also some like large national organizations like questbridge, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, that do a really good job of like, for identifying talented students who require financial aid. And those organizations like working more closely with can help to also improve like socio economic diversity, while as a side effect, also improving like racial diversity.

Shiro Hatori
Interesting, and when it comes to account, how quickly do we need to pivot? Do you have a good understanding of this, like, let’s say, you know, is a part of your strategic plan of your school strategic plan, which usually spans like, multiple years, right, like, schools need to go in and make changes pretty quickly if race is a part of their explicit language?

Jonathan Martin
Yeah, I think we like Fortunately, this decision was made in the summer, so there’s a few months for people to pivot. But before admissions officers start hitting the road and start doing school visits, I think universities in order to protect themselves from like lawsuits will have to have to like, rein in some like explicit language about like, diversity or like racial, like racial diversity outreach, before the admissions officers start hitting the road. I think the reason why I’m saying that is because like, you know, there are organizations like the one that kind of wrote lawsuits to the Supreme Court that have said, like, in interviews that, you know, they are looking potentially not just at higher education, but also like corporate diversity outreach programs. And so I don’t know exactly when those might happen. But if you’re a highly visible college university, there’s a very good chance that they will be spending the next year examining your outreach programs and trying to see if there are any explicit references to like diversity outreach. I think as well, like is looking separately to like private organizations, if you are in a state that. Yeah, is Republican lead. If there’s an attorney general who is like very, like outwardly spoke, like, you know, outwardly saying, I’m going to take a look at dei outreach programs, then again, that’s going to force I think, a lot of universities to try and pivot in the next two or three months. Yeah.

Shiro Hatori
Yeah, it does make sense. What do you have any other opinions on, you know, this happening and what the future might look like, for higher ed institutions? For admissions counselors, admissions, marketers? Yeah.

Jonathan Martin
You know, I think there’s been a lot of attention on formative action. But the vast majority of admission boxes, I don’t think we’ll have to significantly change anything that we’re doing right now. You know, affirmative action, I think only impacts like 100 to 200 and selective institutions. So if you’re listening to this Like, there’s a pretty good chance that like, this won’t effects affect your work at all. But if you are from one of those institutions that has used affirmative action in the past that does, you know, historically have like di outreach programs? I think this will have a massive impact. And you know, the Yeah, I think the like, there are other things that potentially like you could be looking at, if you’re still looking to try and recruit as diverse a class as possible. You know, whether that’s zip code, or being more like finance, or like, I think in the past, people have said, like, they’re a need blind institution, maybe even going further than that, and becoming like, a need conscious institution and putting the thumb on the scale for students of, you know, who are applying for financial aid. And like that, those are, those are potentially ways in which we could see more universities, like, maintain diversity, but by doing it, like through these, like more race neutral approaches.

Shiro Hatori
Gotcha. It’s interesting. I’m also thinking as a marketer myself, like, how does that impact? Like, content I’m creating to do outreach to students as well, right? Because that’s not really like, that’s before the admissions process, right? Like that’s before an application, but wondering how it would affect that, like, Are there going to be states and policing that’s going to be more strict around that, like, you know, you’re, you’re outreaching, to so much to a certain demographic or to certain race, like, I wonder how it’s gonna make it impact at the top level. So like, one specific example is like, let’s say I have a social media account on Tiktok account for university, and I do a lot of top of funnel marketing right there, right, getting students engaged with the school with the schools values, what programs they have, what student life is like, and that all of that is introduced through social media super early on, right? Like, before their students may have even started thinking about college and, and how that content is maybe created. For certain demographic, like, Do you think there’s going to have an effect on that, based on this decision?

Jonathan Martin
I don’t think content itself will be impacted. You still want to have like, like a diverse range of student profiles that you’re promoting. You do want to highlight like, the resources you have on campus, like the cultural centers, the like, you know, I think at Yale, we had like the Casa and the farmhouse, like, those are things that you still very much want to promote, like, that’s, it’s not unconstitutional to talk about. Like the resources you have the community that already exists on campus, I think it’s very much like the strategy and the implementation of that, like, it’s like, I you explicitly just recruiting like one type one, like one racial group of students, like that’s the sort of thing that I think could get you into trouble as like a right potential, like, follow up to the Supreme Court Justice, the content itself, like, I think this is one of the kind of effects of this Supreme Court decision, it’s gonna, like, chill, like, have a lot of people feeling nervous about what they can say, but like, right, universities, like, should still be exercising their First Amendment rights, and saying, like, hey, we have like this amazing community, like, come join lacasa Come join us at the on the FM house. Here are students who, you know, like, you know, you should be interested in so I think, again, like content should not be impacted. But that that is not to say that a lot of people are like second guessing themselves because of this decision.

Shiro Hatori
I was thinking the same thing if this decision came in, and let’s say like I had a diversity goal based on race six months ago, and I was creating a lot of content tailored to that, like, it would make me think twice. And that would probably also be for move explicitly from any strategy, strategy documents, right? That’s in writing, because that’s probably where all the change will start is. Whatever is written. Yeah, I would make a slight impact there. But I think that what you’re saying about like, changing the narrative a little bit to social work, Economic demographic factor may kind of relay that because I think, you know, if you’re in admissions, and in higher ed, you have a good understanding of how all those things are related anyways.

Jonathan Martin
Yeah, like those kind of internal documents that, you know, an admissions officer may put together, like to clarify something, because I think sometimes there is like a lot of miscommunication about like, what affirmative action is, like the Supreme Court years ago, like out, like, rolled out, like quotas of any type, like that was considered unconstitutional. But, you know, universities saying, like, oh, I want to, like, increase the diversity, like, just more broadly speaking about, like, wanting to, like, make a class that’s more representative America, like, without any specific targets, like, that’s very much was okay, up until like, you know, my birthday on June 29. So, yeah, I do want to kind of distinguish that like that, that has like, has always been or has been very long time now. unconstitutional. But it’s now just like even saying, like, I want to more broadly improve diversity. Like, that’s all just like, racial diversity. That’s now no longer allowed. But again, socio economics is fair play. geographic diversity is fair play. And we live in a country where like, geography, social economics, and race are just very entangled with each other. So you could still build a very diverse class, using, I believe, like, was it race neutral? Or yeah, race neutral outreach strategies? Like, like, affirmative action, but for like socio economics? That said, I don’t know, like we will see, like, just how easy it is to continue to build like a racially diverse class using race neutral methods. I think there have been other institutions and states where it’s been banned, where they have struggled to maintain that diversity. Right. But, yeah, like, right now. I think the switch to socio economic focus is, is what we’ll see a lot of emissions marketers do

Shiro Hatori
about that. And as we talk about all these suggestions, and opinions, like, that’d be good to throw in a disclaimer, that none of this information is not legal advice. And so, you know, these are all opinions and conversation or recommendations and thoughts we have about this. So again, this is not any legal advice. I feel like we need to throw that out there. It’s the first time I’ve had say that.

Jonathan Martin
I feel like if you have, like, most admissions officers probably have had a conversation with their general counsel, and are now internally discussing like, how do you like, like, stay in compliance with the recent decision? So talk to your general counsel, don’t? Don’t ask us for legal advice. But yeah, I think if you haven’t had that conversation yet, you should definitely be having that conversation soon.

Shiro Hatori
Well, that Thank you, Jonathan. I’m wondering if any of our listeners want to reach out and connect with you. where’s a good place to go?

Jonathan Martin
Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. So Jonathan Martin, so M AR ti n. And that’s just the best way to connect with me. And if you’re connected with Shiro, I’m probably just like one connection away. Yep.

Shiro Hatori
Yeah, Jonathan does repost some pretty good higher ed content. Just because he has a background in higher ed. He knows, you know, important subjects and important topics, and you usually share content from another news feed. And that’s how I get a lot of my higher ed information is through Jonathan. So definitely throw him a follow. It’ll be worth

Jonathan Martin
Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. Sure. I, I read a ton of articles every morning just about higher education explicitly. So. Yeah.

Shiro Hatori
Well, thank you, Jonathan. And thanks for listeners for tuning in. Make sure to follow us and subscribe to us on your various podcast channels. And there was a comment in Apple podcasts. If you’re listening on Apple podcasts, we would really appreciate it and tune in for the next one. Thanks, everyone. Thanks, everyone.

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