On Saturday, Feb. 24, Knox College released a statement on student activism at the high school level as it relates to the admissions process at Knox. Citing the recent rise in demonstrations and walkouts since the Feb. 14 fatal shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the statement ensured that students who face disciplinary actions from their high schools for their participation in peaceful protests will not see their admission or scholarship situations be negatively impacted.
Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Paul Steenis approached President Teresa Amott with the idea to put out this statement on Feb. 24 and when Amott immediately agreed, they quickly drafted and released the official statement later the same day.
Steenis cited the influence of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), of which Knox was a founding member, and the adoption of a new code of ethics in the fall as a major push in producing this statement.
“The code of ethics really strengthens the language about making sure that colleges and universities are as transparent as possible about how admissions decisions are affected by a variety of issues, including disciplinary issues,” Steenis said.
Though this is the first statement Knox has produced of its kind, Steenis confidently asserted that Knox has always searched for students who have been active in social justice movements prior to attending the college.
“We’re a place that has always and will continue to celebrate the engagement of students in political process, social issues of the day and trying to make a difference in their schools, their communities and the world around them. Those are values that we hold very dear,” Steenis said.
Even with the further support of the NACAC in crafting this statement, not all schools that associate with the organization produced similar statements. For Steenis, it was important to clarify Knox’s support of young students pursuing active roles in improving their communities, as well as to reassure high school guidance counselors that their students wouldn’t be penalized for their activism.
“We thought it was important, given the type of institution we are and the values that we have, that we made it very, very clear to students who are considering Knox that they could participate in these protests even if it results in disciplinary action and they don’t have to worry about how it might affect their offer of admission or scholarship here,” Steenis said.
Though the official statement only mentioned disciplinary action coming from high schools, Steenis clarified that students do not need to worry about disciplinary action from other sources, either.
“Whether it’s the high school taking disciplinary action, whether it be someone getting arrested or getting cited by police, I think the key in all of this is that we want to support peaceful activism,” Steenis said.
Given the traumatic events of the past few weeks, Steenis felt that it was time for Knox to support the rise in student activism that has swept across the country.
“We’re here because we want to prepare students to be active participants in the world around them, active contributors and active agents of change,” Steenis said. “I think to be able to see the leverage high school students have had in moving important conversations forward has been really exciting and it’s been invigorating, especially for many of us in a college community like ours.”