The Affirmative Action Decision: I Just Can’t Let Go | James Wickenden | 5 Min Read

August 31, 2023

While I readily admit that my reflections and opinions about admissions to highly selective colleges and universities will not result in any changes to the recent affirmative action decision, I nonetheless decided to share with you once again my reactions to a recent article authored by John Thelin and Richard Trollinger who in their opening statement wrote, “The June 29 Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action … provided a wake-up call to higher education leaders that they could not afford to rely primarily on the examples set by a small circle of academically prestigious colleges and universities.  In other words, selective admissions was on trial.”

In writing this response to the work of Thelin and Trollinger, I’ve selected specific sentences they wrote and shared with you my reaction to their positions. I’ll add my own experience as a Dean of Admission at Princeton from 1978 to 1983 in response.

“It is important to reconstruct historically how Harvard’s approach to admissions has sent many colleges on a fool’s errand in trying to recruit and then enroll a diverse student constituency that achieves both excellence and equity.”  

I readily admit that Harvard played a…

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Jim Wickenden

Jim is a Principal at DRG and Founder of Wickenden Associates, an affiliate of DRG. Having been the CEO of one of the premier education executive search firms in the United States, Jim brings unparalleled experience and networks to best serve clients. With over 30 years of experience identifying and guiding Heads of Schools and other senior administrators of schools across the country, Jim approaches each search with flexibility and openness that responds to the individual needs and concerns of schools and their leaders. Before founding Wickenden Associates, Jim served as the Dean of Admissions at Princeton University and Director of Student and Alumni Affairs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A graduate of Tabor Academy and Princeton University, Jim holds a master’s degree in Counselor Education from Rutgers University, a master’s degree in the General Purposes of Education from Harvard University, and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Boston University. As a former member of eight boards of independent schools with a wide range of missions and resource levels, Jim also knows firsthand the responsibilities shouldered by today’s trustees; and knows how to guide boards through tough transition processes and on good governance practices. Jim lives in Princeton, NJ, and when he is not at the office he enjoys reading enlightening books.