Affirmative action programs designed to help minority students have been the subject of much debate over the years. There has been much litigation brought before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of affirmative action being applied to college admissions.
I find it odd a social policy attempting to promote equal opportunity and counter the effects of historical discrimination can be an issue of such great contention. Yet despite all the attention affirmative action receives, there is something else being taken into consideration when most universities are going through their admission processes.
I am talking about the preferences universities show toward applicants of alumni, more commonly referred to as “legacy children.” To me this is a horrible form of discrimination, as it is a discrete way of countering affirmative action. It ultimately disadvantages minorities and first-generation college-bound students, as it favors white and wealthy Americans.
Affirmative action tries to bring equality into actuality and not just in theory. Legacy preferences, on the other hand, advantage the already advantaged, and are in no way based on the merits of the applicants but only on their lineage. Legacy preferences are not trying to right a wrong of history. Instead it is solely for the purpose of raising money and keeping the donations coming.
This issue doesn’t get the attention and litigation it truly deserves, but hopefully the Supreme Court will one day consider it a form of illegal discrimination.
To show you how serious of an issue this is, it has been determined as many as three-quarters of the universities in this country apply legacy preferences to their admission processes. We even see it employed here at Virginia Tech. Recall how there was even a section on your application where it asked if you have any family members that are alumni. Did you know 26 percent of this year’s freshman class are legacy children?
That means they had a grandparent, parent or sibling go here. I bet there are many of us who even know someone denied admission here, and at the same time someone else accepted over them, who had lower SAT scores and GPA. There is a chance it could be because of legacy preferences. Did you also know a study has shown being the child of an alumnus increases your chance of acceptance by 20 percent?
It is not an easy thing to prove universities are doing this to such an overwhelming extent. When researchers try to study this, many universities are too embarrassed to admit how much being a legacy factors into admissions.
Yeah, universities might flaunt their acceptance rates of only 10 percent, but what they won’t tell you are their acceptance rates for legacy children are around 40 percent. Our nation has never been one to always apply the law equally to all. We can all agree we have come a long way in the last two centuries, but there is still work to be done.
The Fourteenth Amendment says everyone shall receive equal protection under the law. We need to embody this idea; no child should be discriminated against because of who their parents were.
People who criticize affirmative action contend this is exactly what it does. But to only see the world in that light is to not value a principle that addresses the horrible realization of an atrocious history of discrimination. With legacy preferences, there is no justification for the discrimination based on lineage.
Some states have banned affirmative action policies that help minorities. If there is justification for this, then how can states still justify allowing legacy preferences? We all should agree discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation are not warranted. So why do we continue to allow 75 percent of universities to discriminate against children whose parents didn’t have the opportunity or resources to attend college?
If you feel yourself or someone you know has been the subject of “legacy preference discrimination,” don’t be afraid to take a stand against this. Give the American Civil Liberties Union a call; I’m sure it would love to turn this into litigation. It would be a good way of getting this settled by our courts and bring this contentious issue to justice.
We must never stop fighting to make the equal protection of our laws a reality for all Americans. This may be only one of many problems in our country, but it is a great place to start.
There are too many policies in this country favoring people in the upper classes of society. This horrible policy discriminating on socioeconomic grounds is one that must be attacked.