In the wake of national student activism on gun laws, Seattle University joined a growing list of colleges and universities that pledged to overlook a high-school suspension if it results from peaceful activism.
Seattle University has a message for any high-school students who worry that walking out of school in protest could result in a suspension — an action that, under normal circumstances, might jeopardize their chances of admission.
The Jesuit university’s message: Don’t worry about it.
Seattle U’s admission office made that explicit in a tweet Thursday. It was prompted by news that a Houston-area school district will suspend any student who walks out as part of planned protests against gun violence after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“We feel strongly at Seattle U — how could we penalize students for acting on their values?” said dean of admissions Melore Nielsen, who described participating in peaceful protests as “in alignment with the Jesuit ethos.”
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Nielsen said Seattle U isn’t taking sides in the issue of gun violence, although the Parkland students’ activism was the reason why the admissions office decided to put out the statement. Seattle U will disregard a suspension regardless of the reasons why a student decided to protest, she said.
As it happens, the most widely advertised national protest — “March for Our Lives” — isn’t even happening on a school day; it’s scheduled for Saturday, March 24. In Seattle, the student-led march will start at 10 a.m. at Cal Anderson Park.
But on Thursday and Friday, a wave of colleges and universities around the country made similar promises to freshman applicants, including the California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, DePaul University and Smith College, according to the news website Inside Higher Ed.
The issue is moot at the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western Washington University. The universities don’t take disciplinary actions into account in their admissions process.
The University of Puget Sound didn’t send out a tweet or letter, but the private Tacoma school has no plans to penalize student activism in the admissions process, said Laura Martin-Fedich, vice president for enrollment. Nor do Seattle Pacific University, Gonzaga University or Whitman College, spokespersons for those schools said.
Like many other universities, Seattle U asks high schools to report back if a student who’s been admitted receives some form of discipline before he or she graduates.
Many universities warn seniors that an offer of admission can be revoked if grades slide or students get in trouble before the last day of the school year.
When the idea of disregarding suspensions started making the rounds at other colleges, “we were inspired … and started to see this really was an issue,” Nielsen said, noting that about 30 applicants to Seattle U for fall quarter are from the Houston area. “Obviously, if it’s going to give students reassurance, we wanted to partake as well.”
In previous protests and walkouts, the Seattle School District has typically recorded a student’s absence as unexcused.