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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Legacy Admissions: Affirmative Action in a Different Form
When it comes to the injustices in life, we rarely care as much as when we perceive one has committed against us. We just don't like other people getting the stuff "for free" that we had to work hard for. It isn't fair, which is what life should be, no matter how many times our parents told us otherwise.

This sense of equity is what precipitates the discussion surrounding affirmative action in college admissions. On the one hand, affirmative action, aims to level the playing field. On the other, it assaults the purely merit-based model upon which college admissions is purportedly based. In that sense, letting one person in based on an extrinsic quality (race), isn't fair, no matter what (fair) end purpose could conceivably be met.

Apparently, however, when that extrinsic quality is nepotism, no one really seems to care. Do some people have a problem with legacy admissions? Sure. Have there been a slew of ballot initiatives, legislative bills and high-profile court cases over the past two decades surrounding legacy admissions? Well. No.

NPR recently noted that supporters of legacy admissions claim it isn't unfair, per se, it just gives legacy candidates a "thumb on the scale" when it comes to picking a candidate. I love this term. Because there is nothing fair about putting a thumb on the scale.

Without a doubt, legacy admissions are good for a university's pocketbook. We can dress it up in lots of other ways, as many university administrators do. It supports university tradition, encourages fundraising, and the trickle-down-economics answer: it will ultimately help fund programs for potential 'underserved' students.

But from a purely theoretical viewpoint, it is affirmative action-the beneficiaries just happen to (typically) be white and privileged. Which makes it less likely to ever be challenged.

Is that fair? No, but, as my dad used to say, " 'fare' is what you pay to cross a bridge."


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