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My kids better not get snubbed by Harvard!

Do you know that Spritzlers have been attending Harvard since our ancestors came over on the Mayflower! It's been an honor to see our family moniker up on the Spritzler Library and Aquatic Center. Now some vicious bastard is going to drag our ass in front of the Supremes.

Where's this nation's sense of decency?

Hey wait a minute? I'm Jewish? Never mind.

Harvard’s Legacy Admissions Challenged After Affirmative Action Ruling

Civil-rights complaint seeks federal investigation into Ivy League school’s admissions practices

By Jennifer Calfas and Douglas Belkin, WSJ

Updated July 3, 2023 6:41 pm

The next big civil rights battle over college admissions is gathering steam in the wake of last week’s Supreme Court decision to ban race-based affirmative action.

This time it is the benefit some applicants receive when seeking entry to selective colleges and universities to which their parents gave money or from which they graduated. Called legacy preference, it disproportionately helps students who are both wealthy and white.

The latest action involving legacy status came Monday when Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a complaint against Harvard University with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of three Massachusetts-based Black and Latino community organizations. They claim the school’s legacy admissions preference discriminates against applicants of color.

“We see this complaint as a critical piece of how universities will move forward,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, an attorney with Lawyers for Civil Rights. “It is critical that they think not only about affirmative action, but also about the racial disparities triggered by the donor and alumni preferences.”

A growing number of lawmakers and advocacy groups say it is time for the practice to end. Following the court’s ruling last week, President Biden suggested colleges should rethink the practice, saying they “expand privilege instead of opportunity.” Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle including Sen. Tim Scott (R, S.C.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), expressed similar sentiments.

A Harvard spokesperson declined to comment on the complaint Monday.

Former Harvard President Larry Summers said last week in an opinion piece in the Washington Post that it is time for elite colleges to do away with legacy preferences and “take a hard look at admissions preferences for those who excel in ‘aristocrat sports’ and resist being impressed by those who have benefited from high-priced coaching through the admissions process.”

It isn’t clear how many schools consider legacy in the admissions process, but surveys have shown that about half of the private schools and a smaller percentage of public schools use it.

The Supreme Court has banned colleges from using race as admission criteria, essentially ending affirmative action. California did the same 25 years ago. Photo Illustration: Madeline Marshall

Last year in an address to the faculty of his school, Duke President Vincent Price defended the use of legacy preference.

“We’re an institution that was made in a family—the Duke family. We bear the name of that family. We represent family, we talk about family, so how does that translate into the way we behave?” Price said. “The idea that you would ban legacy admissions, or ban any particular factor as a consideration, is troublesome.”

The practice appears to be broadly unpopular with the public. In May, nearly three quarters of 1,680 adults polled by AP-NORC said legacy either shouldn’t be considered at all or shouldn’t be too important in consideration for admission to college.

The community organizations that singled out Harvard on Monday are asking the federal government to end the Ivy League university’s legacy and donor-related preferences in their admissions practices, saying they violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

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A National Bureau of Economic Research analysis found legacy and donor-related applicants were more likely to be admitted to Harvard than those without that standing. That analysis, cited in the complaint, found that close to 70% of legacy applicants were white, compared with about 40% of other applicants. Legacy applicants were more than five times as likely to be admitted than non-legacy applicants, according to the analysis.

The analysis examined Harvard admissions data disclosed in the affirmative action court case that the Supreme Court ruled on last week.

“Harvard admits predominantly white students using Donor and Legacy Preferences, and, as a direct result, excludes non-white applicants,” lawyers for the groups wrote in the complaint. “As the Supreme Court has recently stated: ‘A benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former group at the expense of the latter,’ ” they wrote, citing the Supreme Court’s majority opinion last week.

The complaint said the call to end legacy and donor admissions practices “is particularly acute” following the Supreme Court’s decision, which it said threatens efforts to build racially diverse college campuses. Some universities in states that already banned race-conscious admissions have struggled to reach their goals to build a more diverse student body without affirmative action.

Despite higher acceptance rates, legacy students have lower academic qualifications on average than non-legacies and earn slightly lower grades, according to several studies.

Following the high court’s decision last week, Harvard leaders said they would “determine how to preserve, consistent with the Court’s new precedent, our essential values.”

Harvard also faces a challenge from Massachusetts, where lawmakers introduced state legislation earlier this year that would fine colleges and universities if they gave legacy preference or donor preference to applicants. The legislation would also penalize schools that use early decision, which disproportionately favors affluent students because it prohibits those who use it from comparing financial-aid packages from other colleges.

The fine for Harvard would be about $100 million, said Rep. Simon Cataldo, a Democrat, who co-sponsored the bill. The money would be used to fund Massachusetts community colleges.

“To decry the loss of race conscious affirmative action and persist in using a policy like legacy preference is hypocritical,” he said. “It casts doubt on the veracity of the claims that schools care about diversity.”

Criticism of legacy admissions began in earnest in 2003 when Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.) filed a bill to abolish the practice. The legislation died after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld affirmative action because legacy was seen as a counterweight.

In 2021, Colorado became the first state to ban legacy admission at public universities.

Lawmakers in Connecticut filed a bill last year that would ban legacy admission for public and private colleges and universities.

In a written statement, Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of admissions at Yale University, called the bill an intrusion and urged the general assembly “to exercise restraint and avoid intruding into the academic decision-making of Connecticut’s public and private institutions of higher education.”

Schools benefit financially from admitting legacy students and early decision applicants whose parents are more likely to donate to the school and need less financial aid, said Michael Dannenberg, a former educational policy adviser to Sen. Kennedy, now a senior fellow at College Promise, a nonprofit organization that advocates for making college more accessible.

“You really need to change the underlying financial incentives that drive colleges to use their admissions systems and financial aid systems in ways that don’t necessarily promote diversity and reward achievement,” he said.

“Going after legacy isn’t enough.”

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