From atop our soapbox in elite college admissions, we have long called for an end to the practice of offering preferential treatment in admissions decision-making to the progeny of a school’s alumni-base. The practice, known as legacy admission, is as much an anachronism these days as are CDs and typewriters. Yet while CDs and typewriters can, at least in some circles, be considered kitschy, legacy admission has no place in the #MeToo era. So we were pleased to read about a national boycott that’s being organized in the hope of eliminating the unfair practice, one we hope gains steam in the days and weeks to come. And how exactly are they going to put pressure on elite universities to end the practice of legacy admission? That’s easy. They’re going after them where it will hurt. They’re encouraging alumni to cease their donations.
Young People Are Organizing to End Legacy Admission
As Rebecca Ostriker reports for The Boston Globe in a piece entitled “Boycott targets college admissions boost given to children of alumni at Harvard, other elite schools,” “The effort, driven by a core group of two dozen young activist alumni from top schools across the country, aims to create a more level playing field for all students — and to use the leverage of alumni themselves, with a donations boycott…The donations boycott is designed to build on past anti-legacy efforts. In 2018, 13 student and alumni groups linked to a dozen top colleges across the country endorsed an open letter calling for the reevaluation of legacy admissions. The letter was published by the EdMobilizer coalition, an advocacy group for first-generation and low-income college students cofounded by Nguyen. Now the coalition istaking a bolder step. Using the slogan ‘Leave Your Legacy,’ the campaign, set to launch in late September, calls for an end to legacy preferences at dozens of selective colleges. The effort is designed to turn the biggest argument for legacy admissions on its head. ‘A lot of the reason legacy preferences in admissions have not been gotten rid of is a fear that it would cause an alumni uproar,” said [Viet] Nguyen, [a student at the Harvard Kennedy School and a leader of the grassroots movement]. ‘By creating this campaign, we’re taking that away. We’re saying there will be uproar if you don’t.'”
We Applaud Their Valiant, Grassroots Efforts
We applaud the efforts of Viet Nguyen and this group of young people hoping to squash legacy admission. While we have long argued why it is wrong — and even unlawful since the practice violates federal tax law, 26 U.S. Code § 170 more specifically — real change, systemic change in America always begins with the populace. It begins when people say enough is enough. It begins when people stop supporting the very institutions that rely on these donations. So here’s hoping this grassroots effort flourishes. Here’s hoping that a few years from now, we won’t still be standing atop our soapbox calling for an end to legacy admission. Hey hey, ho ho, legacy admission has got to go…now!
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