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A Message from Dr. Pestello on Admission Decisions and Prospective Student Activism

Dear Members of the SLU Community,


During the past few years, there has been a marked shift in the life experiences of high school students, their personalities, the ways they engage with the world, and how they let their voices be heard. Most recently, students across the country have actively engaged in demonstrations – a pillar of our democracy. This is not first time students have protested, and it will not be the last.


The nation’s institutions of higher learning cannot continue with episodic responses. We must fundamentally change the way we interact with and view a prospective student’s high school experiences. This means colleges and universities formalizing admission policies that do not preclude students from attending a university because they voiced a dissenting opinion. In fact, dissent, dialogue, and debate are critical to the academy and should be seen as central to – not divergent from – learning. This conversation is consistent with the forthcoming policy being drafted by SLU’s Working Group on Speech, Performance, and Expression. It will be shared in the next few weeks for comment by our students, staff, clinicians, and faculty. 

Congruent with SLU’s practice during those social movements lived by past generations, new Billikens’ admission to the University will not be impacted if they report high school disciplinary actions resulting from exercising their first amendment right to peaceably assemble. Further, Saint Louis University is undertaking the necessary steps to write this practice into our formal policy. 

I must also admit I have equal regard for young people (both protesting and not) who may not be headed for college. It is my hope that the higher education community extends our support for all of them — not just those who may attend one of our schools. 


Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.