Talk­ing the Talk at More­house

All-Male Col­lege In­sists on In­ter­views With Prospec­tive Stu­dents

The Washington Post Sunday - - National News - By Er­rin Haines

AT­LANTA — The road from Bos­ton to More­house Col­lege in­evitably goes through Sean Daugh­try.

The 1993 grad­u­ate of the na­tion’s only all- male, his­tor­i­cally black col­lege is pres­i­dent of the At­lanta school’s alumni chap­ter in Bos­ton, and he in­for­mally in­ter­views boys hop­ing to be­come More­house Men.

“ If you live in Bos­ton and your son wants to go to More­house, I’m go­ing to hear from him,” said Daugh­try, a chemist.

The science of de­ter­min­ing who is More­house ma­te­rial lies be­yond a stu­dent’s ré­sumé, Daugh­try said. While some cases are ob­vi­ous, oth­ers need a closer look.

“ Not ev­ery per­son who is in­tel­li­gent is nec­es­sar­ily a per­son of in­tegrity, char­ac­ter and good moral judg­ment,” Daugh­try said. “ And there are cer­tain things that you look for in a young man who might not have the most stel­lar ré­sumé but still has the de­sire.”

More­house is ex­pand­ing its ad­mis­sions process to in­clude in­ter­views of all se­ri­ous can­di­dates. The school says it won’t make a de­ci­sion on any­one un­til the prospec­tive stu­dent has had a con­ver­sa­tion — ei­ther in per­son or over the phone — with a school of­fi­cial or an alum­nus who has been through re­cruit­ment train­ing.

The changes come af­ter sev­eral re­cent high- profile crimes in­volv­ing More­house stu­dents. Though ad­min­is­tra­tors deny any tie be­tween the bad pub­lic­ity and in­creased scru­tiny of po­ten­tial stu­dents, they ac­knowl­edge the in­ter­views are an at­tempt at get­ting more to the core of each can­di­date’s char­ac­ter.

“ What we’re look­ing for is some sense of whether or not the kinds of tra­di­tions and philo­soph­i­cal, eth­i­cal and moral be­liefs we have here are com­pat­i­ble with the stu­dent who is look­ing at More­house, and mak­ing sure he un­der­stands the real ex­pec­ta­tions we have of stu­dents on our cam­pus,” said Ter­rance Dixon, as­so­ci­ate dean of ad­mis­sions and re­cruit­ment.

More­house has tra­di­tion­ally in­ter­viewed some can­di­dates — typ­i­cally those tour­ing the cam­pus or com­pet­ing for merit- based schol­ar­ships — but not all. Last year, the school re­ceived more than 2,600 ap­pli­ca­tions and of­fered ad­mis­sion to about 1,800 stu­dents. About 860 ac­cepted.

Dixon ex­pects the new in­ter­view re­quire­ment to im­prove stu­dent re­ten­tion, which is now around 60 per­cent.

“ We’re talk­ing about whether or not the stu­dent feels com­fort­able in our en­vi­ron­ment,” he said. “ We’d hate to have a stu­dent come here and be mis­er­able.”

Some of the crimes in­volv­ing More­house stu­dents can’t be ig­nored. In 2002, one stu­dent’s skull was frac­tured when an­other at­tacked him with a base­ball bat be­cause he thought the vic­tim was gay. Last sum­mer, the body of stu­dent Carl­nell James Walker Jr., 23, was found in the trunk of his car af­ter po­lice say four for­mer stu­dents broke into his home and bound, gagged, beat and stabbed him — look­ing for a $ 3,000 in­sur­ance set­tle­ment check that Walker was ex­pected to re­ceive.

Daugh­try said he was con­cerned by the in­ci­dents, but he doesn’t blame the school.

“ The times be­ing what they are, you’re go­ing to have some in­stances where the larger so­ci­ety is go­ing to be re­flected in what you see on cam­pus,” he said. “ When an in­sti­tu­tion like More­house has a his­tory and a tra­di­tion of ... bring­ing up the char­ac­ter of young men who are ex­pected to be lead­ers in their com­mu­nity and in their cho­sen field, there’s no place for crim­i­nal or ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­ity in that par­a­digm.”

Con­cern over be­hav­ior or dis­ci­plinary prob­lems is not unique to More­house, since many col­leges are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to dis­ci­pline as a fac­tor in ad­mis­sion, said David Hawkins, di­rec­tor of pub­lic pol­icy for the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for Col­lege Ad­mis­sion Coun­sel­ing. And Hawkins said it is com­mon for schools to in­ter­view can­di­dates, but not many re­quire it for ad­mis­sion. Those that do tend to be elite.

“ The com­pe­ti­tion for seats at those col­leges is so keen, and the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions is so high, that those col­leges are pay­ing that much closer at­ten­tion to who they let in,” Hawkins said.

And with many high school se­niors send­ing out mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions to in­crease their chances for ac­cep­tance, in­ter­view­ing stu­dents can give ad­min­is­tra­tors a bet­ter idea of a stu­dent’s com­mit­ment to their in­sti­tu­tion. More­house’s ac­cep­tance rate of 48 per­cent last year is on par with the na­tional av­er­age.

“ It’s tough to de­ter­mine who’s se­ri­ous,” Hawkins said.

But More­house’s stu­dent body vice pres­i­dent, Tony C. An­der­son, is wor­ried his school’s new in­ter­view pol­icy could hurt the chances of free- spir­ited, in­de­pen­dent- minded can­di­dates of be­ing ac­cepted over those po­ten­tial stu­dents who show up wear­ing a busi­ness suit and no fa­cial hair and are more in­clined to con­form.

“ What about the free ex­pres­sion of a stu­dent?” An­der­son asked. “ Col­lege is a very frag­ile pe­riod in a per­son’s de­vel­op­ment. It’s about test­ing the bound­aries of who you are.”

Daugh­try said he won’t let stereo­types prej­u­dice his screen­ing.

“ Some con­cerns are sim­ply gen­er­a­tional,” Daugh­try said, like young men wear­ing ear­rings who raised eye­brows when he was an un­der­grad­u­ate. “ But that does not speak to what’s in their hearts, what’s in their char­ac­ter, their level of in­tegrity.”


Tony C. An­der­son, More­house stu­dent body vice pres­i­dent, fears the in­ter­view pol­icy could weed out non­con­formists.

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