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Notre Dame responds to Harvard education report

| Friday, January 29, 2016

The Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common project issued “Turning the Tide,” a report aimed at remaking the college admissions process into a means of encouraging genuine ethical and intellectual engagement in high school and college-age students, on Jan. 20. Admissions personnel from various top-tier universities, including Cornell University and Dartmouth College, have signed the report, endorsing its contents. Donald Bishop, associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment at Notre Dame, said the document was not widely distributed and thus, the University did not have the opportunity to sign it.

“The admissions process should both clearly signal that concern for others and the common good are highly valued in admissions and describe what kinds of service, contributions and engagement are most likely to lead to responsible work, caring relationships and ethical citizenship,” the report stated.

The document goes on to outline recommendations to achieve these goals. According to the report, the admissions process should place a large emphasis on meaningful community service and should prioritize the quality, not the quantity, of activities participated in while in high school.

“Applications should state plainly that students should feel no pressure to report more than two or three substantive extracurricular activities and should discourage students from reporting activities that have not been meaningful to them,” the report stated.

“We are going to reach out to Harvard and look at what they have said in this preliminary report,” Bishop said. “Over the next two years, they are going to work out the details and we are going to offer to get involved.”

Bishop said he feels that the University already does a great job of conveying the message of the Harvard report.

“There was a statement in there, early on, that said while some schools already do this [emphasize the selection of civically and intellectually engaged students], many do not — we are one of the schools that already does this,” Bishop said. “We are in alignment with what they want to see other schools do — we already do. That is why we want to join in, because we think that we can be helpful to them.”

Bishop is in the process of writing a response to the report but said Notre Dame sets itself apart from other schools through its ongoing commitment to recruiting students whose character demonstrate the Notre Dame mission of educating “mind, body and spirit.”

“A lot of what the Harvard process is what other schools should value, we have always valued,” Bishop said. “We have talked about our values [and] we try to reward that if we can identify that in the application.

“… So as a group of students, you all are really wanting to do the right things and serve others, but you are also highly skilled and you have really intellectualized your lives. You like to think, and I think that thinking and doing, putting those together, Notre Dame students do quite well,” he said. “That is what we are looking for in our applicant pool: people that will think through and then act on their thoughts and want to not just become an expert in some academic or intellectual field, but also help make a difference.”

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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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