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A Note from the President: Update on the Assembly and Annual Membership Meeting

By Jayne Caflin-Fonash, NACAC President

Last week’s conference was a benchmarking event. As I move into my presidency, I wanted to ensure all members understand the outcomes and the challenges ahead.

While important work is done each year through our educational sessions, governance meetings, and other events, this year’s conference was especially significant. We asked for your support and trust as we took steps to bring this phase of the Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices to a close, and you responded affirmatively. Our Annual Membership Meeting drew some of the largest participation numbers in association history, with more than 1,400 members taking part in the meeting through in-person and proxy voting. 

I know the votes weren’t easy ones to cast. But I, like you, am optimistic that they will help our board of directors proceed appropriately with the next phase of the DOJ investigation. 

As we chart a new path forward, I wanted to provide an update on the results and offer some preliminary guidance. 
 
At the Assembly and Annual Membership Meeting:

  • A moratorium on enforcement of the CEPP was approved, effective immediately, for a period of up to one year or until legal review with the DOJ is resolved.
     
  • Three CEPP provisions, as well as some introductory language included in one section of our code of ethics, were removed from the document, also effective immediately. The provisions were items that the DOJ believes inhibit, to some extent, competition among colleges for students. The statements addressed offering exclusive incentives for Early Decision, recruiting first-year undergraduates who have committed elsewhere, and recruiting transfer students. (Read more about the specific provisions.)
     
  • NACAC’s Bylaws were amended, giving the association’s Board of Directors special authority to act in extraordinary legal circumstances should any additional changes in the CEPP or association bylaws become necessary.
     
  • The new NACAC membership model was approved through bylaw changes.

In the days and weeks ahead, NACAC will provide further information and advice to help you respond to questions you may receive from the media, the public, or colleagues and department heads at your school or university.
 
Right now, we advise:

  • Take care when addressing the media on the DOJ investigation. If you do speak to the press, please note you are speaking on your own behalf and be careful about sharing specific information regarding how your policies and practices will or will not change following this weekend’s votes. 
     
  • If you do choose to speak publicly, please seek the guidance of your institution’s leadership, such as your president, head of school, superintendent, or legal counsel. The notion of “restraint of trade” among colleges and universities in their recruitment of students is the key issue for NACAC members to keep in mind when thinking about the DOJ investigation and the subsequent changes to our CEPP. Any understandings or agreements among competitors in the market to abide by voluntary rules, limitations, or procedures may be considered as restraining competition, and be subject to a costly antitrust investigation.
      
  • Colleges may make individual decisions whether to abide by the three provisions. But in making their decisions, they should not discuss their intentions or whether they will abide by the provisions with other colleges, and they should not inform other colleges of their decisions. Colleges may notify potential students and applicants whether they abide by one or more of the three provisions. 

More detailed advice on how the Assembly and membership votes will affect your students, as well as the institutions you serve, will soon be available. We’ve resumed our discussions with the DOJ and we hope to resolve the investigation as swiftly as possible.

In the meantime, I want to thank you once again for your support. I believe that, with these votes, the association has demonstrated good faith in our effort to comply with the department’s investigation. I am also confident that NACAC can and will remain a champion for the ethical practice of college admission and a steadfast advocate for protecting students in their transition to higher education. 

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