On Campus
Jul 10, 2023, 06:27AM

Conservatives Are Against Legacy College Admissions

Don’t believe Democratic rhetoric to the contrary.

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Paying attention to some Democratic politicians, you’d think conservatives favor legacy college admissions. That’s false. Colleges and apathetic state legislatures have allowed this nepotistic practice to persist. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled on two cases regarding racial preferences in college admissions brought forth by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. It ruled that racial preferences in admissions are unconstitutional, which led to some politicians pivoting to whataboutism regarding legacy preferences.

Nina Turner, the national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted about legacy admissions for the first time on June 29, 2023, the day the court made the decision. "When will the Supreme Court take up legacy admissions?" one of her two tweets read. "Hint: they won’t. Conservatives went after affirmative action first and came after *only* affirmative action. And it’s a shining example of how these inequities play out." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) expressed outrage that the court didn’t legislate from the bench and abolish legacy admissions in a case dealing specifically with race in admissions. "If SCOTUS was serious about their ludicrous 'colorblindness' claims, they would have abolished legacy admissions, aka affirmative action for the privileged," she wrote. "70% of Harvard’s legacy applicants are white. SCOTUS didn’t touch that—which would have impacted them and their patrons."

And Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) must’ve also discovered legacy admissions existed on June 29, 2023. "Affirmative Action still stands today, they’re called 'Legacy Admissions,'" she tweeted. "SCOTUS struck down Affirmative Action for non-white applicants."

All of this is stupid.

Conservatives have argued for meritocracy in college admissions. Students for Fair Admissions leader Edward Blum, South Carolina Senator and Republican presidential candidate Tim Scott, and political commentator Ben Shapiro are among the many prominent conservatives who’ve publicly advocated for ending legacy admissions. I made the case against legacy admissions for The Washington Examiner; likening it to legal bribery. I've often criticized these admissions several times, dating back to 2020.

The difference is that conservatives generally don’t look at legacy admissions from a racial perspective. They think it’s wrong that family connections and donations to a university give students an edge in the admissions process. They’re not worried that legacies are majority white. Many conservatives despise the modern elites and think they’re too liberal. Therefore, they have little incentive to defend a practice that benefits such people. Two other issues receive less discussion. One is that letting unqualified students into schools puts them in a position where they’re more likely to fail. Even though legacies aren’t the most sympathetic bunch, it’s still bad because they may accumulate debt, drop out, and be worse off than if they’d never attended college. Much of the American elite comes from elite, selective colleges. People who attended those colleges, including Harvard, have told me that the network and connections are more important than the individual classes. We should want our elites to be the brightest and hardest workers, not merely those with the right skin color, connections or squash skills.

Instead, colleges themselves keep legacy admissions in place. In Massachusetts, Harvard, Williams, Tufts, and Wellesley are among the top schools considering legacy in admissions. While Harvard mourned the loss of its racist affirmative action policy, it hasn’t announced any plans to change its elitist legacy admissions policy, nor have any of the other aforementioned schools. Tufts stocks some of its men’s bathrooms with tampons. These aren’t schools led by conservatives.

The Massachusetts legislature has had a Democratic supermajority for over 30 years. It could’ve ended legacy admissions at Harvard any time it wanted to in that stretch, but they haven’t, just as they haven’t made public college tuition-free or healthcare universal. No one is stopping the legislature from passing a legacy admissions ban or the legislatures in states like Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island, which also have Ivy League schools. Only Colorado has banned legacy admissions. If liberals and conservatives agree that legacy admissions are unjust, they should come together and pass bipartisan bills ending this corruption.


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