Seven members of the Incarceration to Education Coalition (IEC) met via a conference call with representatives from the Common Application, including Gil Villanueva, the Chair of the Board of Directors. New York University administration officials were in the room with IEC members, but not a part of the meeting’s agenda.
IEC presented several points to the Common Application (hear the presentation here). After the presentation, the Common Application said they did not have questions for IEC at this time. IEC asked several questions of the Common Application.
Overall, IEC feels the meeting went as expected. As we predicted, the Common Application did not have definitive answers to many of our questions. However, there were a few responses that were worrisome. The Common Application appeared to know little about the school-to-prison pipeline, or how THE BOX could contribute to this self-perpetuating system of inequity and oppression upon our nation’s children. Despite the wealth of current research and statements from relevant experts and consultants on this matter, the Common Application felt this information was not enough to convince them that THE BOX is discriminatory. The Common Application pointed to the Virginia Tech shooting as a reason why THE BOX could have been put on the application, but it should be noted that this crime was not committed by a person with a criminal record.
When prompted about the Common Application and NYU’s relationship with BlackRock and the potential conflict of interest these relationships pose, the Common Application did not offer any response. BlackRock has investments in the Corrections Corporation of America. Research that reveals THE BOX could increase recidivism, leading to higher profits for private prison companies such as the Corrections Corporation of America. Therefore, there are reasonable grounds to suspect that that the Common Application had a legal responsibility to consult with a third party before including THE BOX. The Common App’s inability to definitively verify that other associations were consulted before including THE BOX, may suggest the organization could be vulnerable to liability or conflict of interest concerns.
The Common Application clarified to IEC that the word “access” in their mission statement is defined as the ability for an applicant to reach multiple schools with one application. IEC hopes that they are committed to “integrity” and “equity,” which are also included in their mission statement.
The Common Application put responsibility for removing THE BOX on member organizations (although they could not definitely confirm that a majority of member organizations requested that THE BOX be included on the general application). Therefore, colleges like New York University have a responsibility to acknowledge the harms posed by THE BOX and demand that it be removed from our application.
Following this conversation, IEC expects the following materials from the Common Application:
what surveys, research, or organizations were consulted before the Common Application decided to include THE BOX in the application;
the Common Application’s governing documents, bylaws and conflict of interest policy; and
details on the Common Application’s decision-making structure (i.e., how can the decision be made to move THE BOX from the general application which all schools must use to the supplement which is specific to each school?).