Wesleyan University ends legacy admissions

After the Supreme Court ruling, traditional admissions came under heavy attack because the practice favored white, wealthy applicants over black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American students.

President Joe Biden; Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat; and Senator Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, all spoke out against the practice.

Polls also show that the public does not support traditional combinations. A Pew Research Center study last year 75 percent of those surveyed believed that genetic status should not be a factor in college admissions.

Some of the most selective universities and colleges have abandoned legacy admissions, including Amherst, Johns Hopkins, and Carnegie Mellon.

But most are reluctant to abandon the practice, arguing that it helps build a strong generational community and encourages donations, which could be used for financial aid.

With about 3,200 undergraduates, Wesleyan’s decision is easier than other colleges like Harvard or Yale.

Wesleyan’s president Michael S. Roth said in an interview. But, he added, the practice becomes a distraction and a “sign of injustice to the outside world”.

Mr. Roth said it’s unclear exactly how many past Wesleyan students benefited from legacy status. An applicant’s family ties, for example, can be used as a tiebreaker or help narrow a pool. They don’t anymore.

He said he wants to focus the conversation on improving diversity, hiring more soldiers and students from rural areas, and avoiding discussion of “the uncomfortable fact that you’re actually in a position because of your parents or grandparents.”

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Mr. Roth said he believes most alumni, if not all, would agree that legacy admissions are no longer relevant.

“I’ll bet, I think,” he said with a hint of uncertainty, “that Wesleyan alumni would be proud of that, and they’d want it to be a place that didn’t make unknown offers to applicants.”

The future of traditional admissions on campuses is uncertain.

After the Supreme Court ruling, President Biden said he would ask the Department of Education to examine “practices such as hereditary admissions and other systems that expand privilege rather than opportunity.” And Lawyers for Civil Rights, a legal activist group, has filed a complaint with the department demanding a review of Harvard’s admissions options for legacy admissions and relatives of donors.

Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the group’s executive director, said in an interview that colleges expect to make similar decisions in the months ahead of the next admissions cycle.

“Companies will rethink their practices as a matter of basic fairness,” he said.

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