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Monday, March 12, 2018
Demanding Transparency in Legacy Admissions
Though the debate surrounding the fairness of legacy admissions policies is not new, it garnered some fresh attention this week. Student groups at thirteen top universities made a formal announcement of their intent to mobilize against legacy admission-a policy they recognize as a form of affirmative action for family members of wealthy alumni.
Their first goal is transparency. While many top universities don't deny the existence of legacy policies, they are much quieter about the actual admission metrics. Some try and cover the policy with a veneer of equity, claiming that, when faced with two equally qualified students, there is nothing wrong in selecting the student with stronger familial ties to the university. The problem with that argument, naturally, is that there is no way of proving that legacy admits are in fact as qualified as the students denied admission because of their lack of family connections.
A longer-term aim of these student groups is to scrap this patently prejudicial policy, which they see as a barrier to upward social mobility for all but the white, wealthy and connected.
Of particular importance is a debunking of the notion that legacy admissions benefit scholarship students. They argue that there is little evidence that legacy preferences increase donations. Wealthy alumni may just as inclined to donate to their alma maters whether or not they were able to purchase an admission spot for their own child.
They will, of course, face an uphill battle. The legacy admissions model has quietly served elite families (and university endowments) for decades. It is unlikely that they will loosen their grip on that expedited access without a fight.
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