Following a formal complaint filed by the non-profit Lawyers for Civil Rights, the U.S. Department of Education is opening an investigation into the use of legacy admissions by Harvard University.
According to the New York Times, the department released a statement indicating that the federal government agreed to look into how legacy admissions create an unfair playing field for prospective students which reads in part: “…the Office for Civil Rights can confirm that there is an open investigation of Harvard University under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We do not comment on open investigations.”
Harvard is among the number of elite, East coast universities that still use the policy, but there is a growing consensus that diversifying college campuses is incongruent with the use of legacy admissions.
NPR interviewed Wesleyan University President Michael Roth following the university’s decision to end legacy admissions. Roth indicated that a major roadblock to ending the policy among those selective colleges is the fear that they would lose funding from alumni but Roth thinks most alumni will see the value of a level playing field.
There is a view that legacy admissions essentially function as affirmative action for white students, which is also echoed in the complaint that Lawyers for Civil Rights filed.
It is expected that legacy admissions will end at some point based on the momentum against the policy. The practice received increased attention during the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision; justices on both sides made arguments that seemed as though they viewed the policy as an unfair and archaic one. This is reflected in the fact that Democrats who were critical of the affirmative action ruling agreed with Republicans who celebrated the end of affirmative action, regarding the practice of legacy admissions. Both parties essentially seem to see legacy admissions as antithetical to the ideas of fairness and equity.
Moreover, it is irrational to oppose affirmative action under the pretext of giving special treatment to underrepresented groups during the admission process, while simultaneously permitting legacy admissions for individuals who are not part of these groups.
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Source: Black Enterprise