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Harvard faces legal challenge over ‘legacy’ admissions for children of alumni

Lawyers claim policy discriminates against ethnic minorities

By David Millward | July 4, 2023, at 5:50pm

Harvard’s preferential treatment towards the children of former students and donors in the admissions process is being challenged just days after the US Supreme Court struck down its “race-conscious” policies.

Three civil rights groups are asking the US department of education to investigate Harvard’s admission practices and order the school to abandon “legacy” preferences if it wants to continue receiving federal funding.

They claim the school’s preferential policy for undergraduate applicants with family ties to the elite institution overwhelmingly benefits white students.

Last week, the Supreme Court said affirmative action policies adopted by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina to ensure that more non-white students are admitted were unconstitutional.

The groups in Monday’s complaint said the ruling made it even more imperative to eliminate policies that disadvantage non-white applicants.

According to the complaint, nearly 70 per cent of Harvard’s legacy applicants – and those related to donors – are white.

Children of alumni are six times more likely to be offered a place at Harvard and the offspring of donors seven times.

Policy ‘must end’

“Harvard’s practice of giving a leg-up to the children of wealthy donors and alumni – who have done nothing to deserve it – must end,” said Michael Kippins of Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR).

“This preferential treatment overwhelmingly goes to white applicants and harms efforts to diversity.

“Particularly in light of last week’s decision from the Supreme Court, it is imperative that the federal government act now to eliminate this unfair barrier that systematically disadvantages students of colour.”

The admissions policies at elite institutions have become a new political battleground for conservative groups who maintain affirmative action policies favour black students.

Some white students as well as Asian Americans have complained they have lost out because of affirmative action.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling Christopher Rim, a college counsellor, said he received dozens of calls from Asian families who hoped their chances of admission to elite colleges would increase.

While other elite institutions have abandoned admissions policies favouring the children of alumni, Harvard, which dates back to 1636, has not.

Admit students ‘on merit’

“There’s no birthright to Harvard,” added Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, said LCR’s executive director.
“There should be no way to identify who your parents are in the college application process. Why are we rewarding children for privileges and advantages accrued by prior generations?

“Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit and should have no bearing on the college admissions process.”

The Telegraph has approached Harvard University for comment.

The Telegraph

Originally published on The Telegraph. on July 4, 2023

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