The legacy system is affirmative action for the privileged.
We progressives hail opportunity, egalitarianism and diversity. Yet here’s our dirty little secret: Some of our most liberal bastions in America rely on a system of inherited privilege that benefits rich whites at the expense of almost everyone else.
I’m talking about “legacy preferences” that elite universities give to children of graduates. These universities constitute some of the world’s greatest public goods, but they rig admissions to favor applicants who already have had every privilege in life.
.. Most of the best universities in America systematically discriminate in favor of affluent, privileged alumni children. If that isn’t enough to get your kids accepted, donate $5 million to the university, and they’ll get a second look.
.. Reeves noted the irony that in Europe and most of the rest of the world, there is no such explicit system of legacy preferences, yet in supposedly egalitarian America it is formal and systematic.
.. Isn’t it a bit hypocritical that institutions so associated with liberalism should embrace a hereditary aristocratic structure? Ah, never underestimate the power of self-interest to shape people’s views. As Reeves put it dryly: “American liberalism tends to diminish as the issues get closer to home.”
.. having a parent graduate increased the chance of admission at 30 top colleges by 45 percentage points. For example, a candidate who otherwise had a 20 percent shot became a 65 percent prospect with a parent who had graduated from that school.
.. Earlier, a 2004 Princeton study estimated that legacy at top schools was worth an additional 160 points on an SAT, out of 1600 points.
Legacy preferences apparently were introduced in America in the early 1900s as a way to keep out Jewish students. To their credit, some American universities, including M.I.T. — not to mention Oxford and Cambridge in Britain — don’t give a legacy preference.
The top universities say that legacy preferences help create a multigenerational community of alumni, and that’s a legitimate argument. They also note that rewarding donors helps encourage donations that can be used to finance scholarships for needy kids.
Yet on balance, I’m troubled that some of America’s greatest institutions grant a transformative opportunity disproportionately to kids already steeped in advantage, from violin lessons to chess tournaments to SAT coaching. On top of that, letting wealthy families pay for extra consideration feels, to use a technical term, yucky.
Liberals object to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing tycoons to buy political influence, so why allow tycoons to buy influence in college admissions?
“We are women who have known Brett Kavanaugh for more than 35 years and knew him while he attended high school between 1979 and 1983. For the entire time we have known Brett Kavanaugh, he has behaved honorably and treated women with respect,” read the letter, from women who attended schools including Visitation, Stone Ridge and Holton-Arms.
.. “It was just a horrible culture,” she said. “I never married, I don’t have kids, and I trace it all back to those parties.”
All of the women interviewed for this story took pains to point out that not all of the students at the all-boys schools took part in this culture. But the problem was widespread and toxic, they said.
“There were lots of teenage boys I knew at Prep and Gonzaga who were not sexually assaulting girls, but they were in an environment where that was seen as acceptable,”
.. “The story that Dr. Ford told, that doesn’t surprise me at all.”
.. A 1980 Visitation graduate recalls politely asking a Georgetown Prep football player and his friends to leave a party that had ended at her friend’s house. The boys didn’t want to go and said so, asking the woman how she was going to make them leave. One took a step in her direction. She cracked the Heineken bottle from which she had been drinking against the wall and pointed the jagged edge at him. The boy walked away, muttering obscenities. They weren’t friends before, and certainly not after. The woman watched as the man steadily became a pillar of society. She doubts he remembers.
.. “The boys were really unable to regard young women as intellectual, social equals, and it was really infuriating to me. It’s so jarring to feel like you’re a competent, confident person, and then boys can’t treat you like a human.”
Several Georgetown Prep graduates interviewed for this story who attended during the 1980s say they have fond memories of the school and the lifetime friendships they forged there. But they also corroborate the impression that alcohol was an integral part of the school’s identity at the time and that heavy drinking and disregard or mistreatment of women were widely accepted.
Timothy Vaughn dutifully cheered the University of Missouri for a decade, sitting in the stands with his swag, two hot dogs and a Diet Coke. He estimates he attended between 60 and 85 athletic events every year—football and basketball games and even tennis matches and gymnastics meets. But after the infamous protests of fall 2015, Missouri lost this die-hard fan.
“I pledge from this day forward NOT TO contribute to the [Tiger Scholarship Fund], buy any tickets to any University of Missouri athletic event, to attend any athletic event (even if free), to give away all my MU clothes (nearly my entire wardrobe) after I have removed any logos associated with the University of Missouri, and any cards/helmets/ice buckets/flags with the University of Missouri logo on it,” Mr. Vaughn told administrators in an email four semesters ago.
He was not alone. Thousands of pages of emails I obtained through the Missouri Freedom of Information Act show that many alumni and other supporters were disgusted with administrators’ feeble response to the disruptions. Like Mr. Vaughn, many promised they’d stop attending athletic events. Others vowed they’d never send their children or grandchildren to the university. It now appears many of them have made good on those promises.
The commotion began in October 2015, when student activists claiming that “racism lives here” sent administrators a lengthy list of demands. Among them: The president of the University of Missouri system should resign after delivering a handwritten apology acknowledging his “white male privilege”; the curriculum should include “comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion” training; and 10% of the faculty and staff should be black.
.. Donors, parents, alumni, sports fans and prospective students raged against the administration’s caving in. “At breakfast this morning, my wife and I agreed that MU is NOT a school we would even consider for our three children,” wrote Victor Wirtz, a 1978 alum, adding that the university “has devolved into the Berkeley of the Midwest.”
.. As classes begin this week, freshmen enrollment is down 35% since the protests
.. Universities have consistently underestimated the power of a furious public. At the same time, they’ve overestimated the power of student activists, who have only as much influence as administrators give them. Far from avoiding controversy, administrators who respond to campus radicals with cowardice and capitulation should expect to pay a steep price for years.
.. Susan Fox: I live in Missouri. I even attended Mizzou for a summer program in high school. I am now having my first child.
Mizzou will not receive a dime of my money. If my child wants to go to a state school, they can go to Rolla or Kirksville. If Mizzou sends my child brochures, they will be returned with a “We need some muscle over here!” comment splayed across it. This is 18 years into the future we are now talking about.
I do not think Mizzou has correctly accounted for the long-lasting effects its actions will have.
.. William Butos: .. What they do not understand is that the people paying the freight are beginning to see through this shell game and refusing to play along.
.. Barrett McShane: The only thing that can really change a university administration’s bent towards Lefties is for wealthy alums to stop contributing. For some reason the allure of having a brick, plaque, quadrangle or building with one’s name on it is stronger than common sense, so unlikely things will change to any great degree.
.. Jeff Middleswart:
This is an important lesson to understand. Actual Americans need to realize that they still hold the purse-strings here. They also need to realize that the truly privileged in this society are leaching off the productive and getting perks that the rest of us pay for and yet do not receive ourselves.
Does the 20-year old who became a welder still get spring break and summers off? Can the welder borrow money via a school loan to pay for his vacation to Europe?
How many of you work more than 9 hours per week for 32 weeks per year?
Do you get a free pension with mandated set returns from tax payers?
Can you bill the tax payers for grant money to produce work no one will read or use?
How many of you have life time employment with automatic raises?
If your business isn’t viable anymore – does it get subsidies forever like NPR, NEA, teaching French…?
Can you mandate that people use your product? The school can require that an engineer take literature from a tenured prof and buy his book.
.. John Watson
The very day Donald Trump announced his candidacy, my liberal niece asked me what I thought about it, like it was absurd. I told her that whatever the result, one thing was for sure. Trump was going to make us talk about “uncomfortable” things. No PC BS from him. She asked with concern why that was a good thing, and I explained that we can’t fix what we can’t talk about. She agreed with that basic premise, if nothing else I said.
The PC culture has done immense damage to our nation and our society. It has created what we know as snowflakes, college students who are shielded from the real world to the extent they will never be prepared to deal with it. Free speech has been endangered to the extent some even want to criminally prosecute those who dare disagree with their view of things, such as the Climate crowd. Corporations fear the PC police and their press to the point of acting irrationally, as seen by the recent exodus of CEO from Trump’s support.
Let’s talk and fix things.
.. Hillsdale College in Michigan is one of the few institutions remaining that does not have as their mission to indoctrinate students in Leftism. Sad to say, but even the military schools have become cesspools of political correctness. One can hope this movement against Leftism that has been the guiding light for over 40 years at these schools is now going to be challenged. When you look at the cost benefit ratio of student debt versus what is taught the whole college education imperative comes into question.