The Tired Argument of Anti-White Discrimination in Admissions

Discrimination in Admissions, Admission Discrimination, Arguments Against Discrimination in Admissions
We’re tired of hearing the argument that white people face discrimination in the admissions process (photo credit: Daderot).

Among the most vocal commenters to our daily blogs are a group of people who make the tired argument that white people so often face insurmountable discrimination in America’s highly selective college admissions process. In fact, these folks frequently write their arguments so forcefully that you’d think they believe the basic premise of their argument is either new or noteworthy. Allow us to assure our readers that the basic premise of their argument is neither new nor noteworthy. And it simply isn’t true.

Keith Payne recently wrote in a piece for Scientific American entitled “The Truth about Anti-White Discrimination,” “A friend complained to me recently that his son wasn’t getting into Ivy League colleges because it’s so hard for a middle-class white kid to be admitted, even with straight A’s. I asked if the advantages of being a middle-class white kid might be part of the reason his son had become a straight-A student in the first place. It got awkward.” Amen, Mr. Payne!

If white students truly faced discrimination in the highly selective college admissions process — akin to the discrimination that, say, Asian Americans face — then how do these folks account for legacies, the children of alumni who receive preferential treatment in admissions? For decades, the vast majority of legacy applicants have been white. And while this number will grow smaller in the years to come as the children of African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American alumni come of age, the vast majority right now in 2019 remain white. Or how about for recruited athletes? The vast majority are white. After all, sports like squash, swimming, water polo, equestrian, field hockey, and lacrosse aren’t all that diverse and yet a portion of each incoming class is reserved for recruited athletes in these sorts of sports. Or how about development cases, the children of major donors? The vast majority of these applicants are — unsurprisingly — white, too.

Shall we go on? Or shall we land our point that legacies, recruited athletes, and development cases are overwhelmingly white. And legacies, recruited athletes, and development cases make up a sizable percentage of the incoming classes at many of America’s highly selective colleges. As an example, over the last few years, around a quarter of the University of Pennsylvania’s Early Decision admits have been legacies and Early Decision admits typically fill around 55% of seats in each UPenn incoming class. Now imagine the swimming and diving recruits on top of that figure. And the squash recruits. And the lacrosse recruits. Get the picture?

So until those who are so loudly beating the drum of this tired and false argument — that white students face discrimination in the college admissions process — cease doing so, we’ll always counter with: legacies, recruited athletes, and development cases. How do these folks explain them apples? They can’t.


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  • Jefferson Bowen says:

    In essence, the middle class white kids who are run-of-the-mill straight A who haven’t accomplished anything that’s particularly unique or interesting are discriminated against because they are a dime a dozen and it’s tough as hell to get admitted to an elite school that has a 6% admit rate that includes legacies, development cases and recruited athletes. The admit rate in reality is about 3% for your average high school valedictorian with high test scores and student council president designation.

    My suggestion is to apply to schools that at least admit 25% of applicants to increase your odds.

  • Kay says:

    As someone in college admissions at a highly selective institution, I am frankly tired of hearing about the so called preferential treatment given to legacies. At our school the stats for legacy admits and everyone else are dead even and we only even look at legacy if the student is willing to commit ED. Within that group the stats are equal for legacy and non-legacy admits even when you take out athletes.

    Why is it so impossible for people to believe that bright people who attended top ranked colleges have children who are equally bright and therefore just as deserving of a spot in the class as anyone else. The legacy argument is a tired one. Additionally at most schools there are perhaps 20-25 development admits, those are typically legacies – and thus, with few exceptions, the development and legacies admits are overlaps.

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