The Ivy Coach Daily

October 23, 2021

Praise for Amherst College

Amherst College has axed legacy admission (photo credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel).

We reported two days ago that Amherst College opted to discontinue the consideration of legacy status in its admissions process. It was a move we hailed as a step in the right direction, though we asked Amherst’s admissions office to release the percentage of legacy students who earn admission over the next few years just to make sure they’re not making some grandiose announcement lacking in any real substance. Because colleges have never done that, right? Newsflash: Just about every college that claims to be need-blind in admissions has done that since the vast majority of these schools aren’t actually need-blind. Rather, they’re need aware. It’s why they ask if students need aid on the application itself. In any case, Amherst is still deserving of praise for boldly going where so few of America’s top universities have gone before by eliminating this birthright — schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, Pomona College, and Johns Hopkins University. So allow us to shower some more praise on the liberal arts college by sharing a love letter to the institution for making the move it made that we came across in The Atlantic.

In a piece in The Atlantic by James S. Murphy entitled “College Admissions Are Still Unfair,” he writes, “There is also an important component of racial justice in dropping legacy preferences. The practice overwhelmingly benefits white applicants and harms first-generation, immigrant, low-income, and nonwhite students. A 2018 lawsuit against Harvard revealed that 77 percent of legacy admits were white, while just 5 percent were Black and 7 percent were Hispanic. At Notre Dame, the class of 2024 had five times as many legacies as Black students. The college-access advocate Akil Bello told me that ’eliminating legacy preference at what I like to call highly rejective colleges matters because it ends the perpetuation of the generational head start and advantages that white people in this country have.’ Colleges want to hold on to their institutional legacy, but discrimination is part of that legacy. And, looking at the legacy-enrollment rates of several highly ranked colleges versus their Black-enrollment rates in the chart below, the failure to serve all students remains a part of their present.”

Well said indeed. We applaud Mr. Murphy for framing Amherst’s elimination of legacy admission as a move towards racial justice. He’s absolutely right. Legacy admission is an anachronistic practice that has no place in our twenty-first century and it has no place in America. Hey hey, ho ho. Legacy admission has got to go!

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