Traditional admissions has come under renewed scrutiny following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that severely curtails the use of race in college admissions.
Although the Supreme Court is ideologically divided on the use of race as a factor in admissions, conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and the court’s senior liberal, Justice Sonia M. There was common ground in criticizing Harvard’s practice against Sotomayor’s views. Giving priority to ALDC applicants – i.e. athletes, legacies, first relatives of donors and children of faculty or staff – in admissions.
In oral arguments last October, several conservative justices struck down legacy options as a race-neutral alternative to Harvard’s admissions process.
President Joe Biden took aim at legacy admissions in a press conference following the decision, announcing that he had directed the Department of Education to “examine what practices help create more inclusive and diverse student bodies and what practices hinder it — practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege rather than opportunity.” .”
In a concurring opinion published with the court’s decision, Gorsuch — who voted with the majority in Thursday’s ruling — argued that Harvard’s ALDC preferences “undoubtedly greatly benefit white and wealthy applicants” in its admissions process.
“Its preferences for the children of donors, alumni and faculty are of no help to applicants who cannot boast of their parents’ good fortune or lifetime trips to the alumni tent,” Gorsuch wrote.
Gorsuch pointed to evidence submitted by Students for Fair Admissions last October that Harvard “could replicate the current racial makeup of its student body without resorting to race-based practices.”
“Many universities across the country, SFFA points out, are seeking to do just that by reducing legacy options, increasing financial aid and more,” Gorsuch wrote.
The SFFA argued that if Harvard gave applicants from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds “half the tip given to recruited athletes” and removed all discretion in admissions from donors, alumni and faculty, they would produce affirmative action policies.
“However, at the hearing, Harvard objected to the proposal,” Gorsuch wrote.
Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 has long defended legacy options, saying in a March interview that Fitzsimmons’ policy provides only “a small tip.”
In his dissent, Sotomayor also blasted traditional admissions, but unlike Gorsuch, argued that Harvard’s continued practice of giving preference to ALDC applicants — 67.8 percent white — underscores the need for affirmative action. “ALDC applicants make up about 30% of admitted applicants each year and less than 5% of applicants to Harvard,” he noted, citing statistics presented at oral arguments this fall.
“Simply put, race is a small piece of a much larger admissions puzzle, where most pieces do not favor less ethnic minorities,” he wrote. “That’s why underrepresented ethnic minorities are underrepresented.”
In a statement Thursday, former first lady Michelle Obama wrote that “we generally don’t question” whether children of alumni or students who received “luxurious” resources in high school belong to selective colleges. Consideration for admission.”
“Too often, we accept that money, power, and privilege are legitimate forms of assertiveness, while kids growing up like me are expected to compete when the floor is level,” she wrote.
—Staff writer Raheem D. Hamid can be reached at [email protected].
—Staff writer Thomas J. Matt can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjmete.