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?
The right-wing candidate for Kansas governor has degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale. But to watch him war with figments of his imagination — a fictional army of fraudulent voters — makes one think of that old ad campaign: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
.. Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state, produced no credible support for his theory that large numbers of noncitizens are illegally voting in American elections. Thus, the Kobach-inspired law requiring Kansas voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship is unconstitutional because it imposes the burden without a reasonable justification.
.. “At most, 67 noncitizens registered or attempted to register in Kansas over the last 19 years,” the judge found. Of those, only 39, at most, actually ended up on voter rolls, put there largely by clerical mistakes, not fraud.
.. “Some applicants told the . . . clerk that they were not citizens, yet the clerk completed a voter registration application” anyway.
.. “Given the almost 2 million individuals on the Kansas voter rolls, some administrative anomalies are expected,”
.. For that matter, human errors have recorded 400 Kansas voters as having birth dates subsequent to their dates of registration.
.. Kobach, as much as any individual, is the author of right-wing mania over mass voter fraud.
.. Ducking and dodging so vigorously that the judge, a Republican appointee, held him in contempt of court, Kobach tried to argue that the tiny number of mistaken registrations actually proves the existence of a vast horde.
.. He “insists that these numbers are just ‘the tip of the iceberg.
.. Kobach may be a victim of his own success — or a textbook example of the Peter Principle
.. Winning the post of secretary of state in 2010 placed him in charge of Kansas elections, giving him the tools he needed to prove the righteousness of his quest.
.. Like Joseph McCarthy waving his phony list of communists, Kobach reached a point where he had to put up or shut up.
.. “Defendant already has prosecutorial authority over Kansas election crimes. Yet, since obtaining this authority . . . Defendant has filed zero criminal complaints against noncitizens for registering to vote.”
.. Robinson required Kobach to complete a refresher course in trial procedure before he can renew his law license — quite a smackdown for a former law professor.
Overall he presents the five types of bullshit jobs as flunkies, goons, duct tapers, box tickers, and taskmasters, but he spends too much time trying to lower the status of these jobs and not enough time investigating what happens when those jobs go away.
.. A simple experiment would vastly improve this book and make for a marvelous case study chapter: let him spend a year managing a mid-size organization, say 60-80 employees, but one which does not have an adequately staffed HR department, or perhaps does not have an HR department at all. Then let him report back to us.
At that point we’ll see who really has the bullshit job.