use faux pas (killtacular) wrote,
use faux pas
killtacular

So

this is a great article. It gives very good reasons for something I've always believed: Anyone who opposes affirmative action (in college admissions) without opposing legacy admissions more is really, really dumb, and quite possibly despicable. There are a few people who probably avoid this criticism, iirc, the funder for the the California public university anti-affirmative-action referendum did try to introduce an anti-legacy referendum afterwards. Which failed. Hard.

The basic point is this: legacy admissions are much, much more pernicious than almost any affirmative action policy, even on the assumptions of anti-affirmative action supporters (assuming, at least, that anti-affirmative-action supporters are motivated by better motives than "GO WHITE GUYS", which I assume most are). If you focus your attention on attacking affirmative action policies without attacking legacy admissions more, then you are in all likelihood a racist, ignorant, or stupid.

(Which isn't to say if you oppose both you have any of those qualities. I probably still disagree with you: I think there may well be a role for legacy admissions and affirmative action policies in a high-quality university. But disagreeing with me on that is totally fine (at least in the sense that I won't consider you a horrible person if you do so). Disagreeing with me about being cool with legacy admissions but not cool with affirmative action means, well, you very probably fit one of the three perjoratives I gave above).
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On reading this post I tried to come up with some argument that one could conceivably use to justify legacy admissions but not affirmative action. The passing point mentioned about increasing alumni donations is the one thing that could make sense. I remember once about six or seven years ago reading in the NYTimes about the fact that many universities set aside a certain number of spots in their entering class for children of the superrich, whose families are often courted before the kid is even ready to enter. The idea is that by setting aside a few spots like this, they can rake in large amounts of money from these superrich families, which can then go to benefit all the other students. This policy has the most pernicious part of the legacy preference, but is also more closely tailored to actually produce a benefit to other students. I don't know which is worse.
That is probably the only reason that justifies legacy admissions. And it may well be a legitimate reason (as I said above, I may still kinda oppose it, but in conjunction with appropriate affirmative action policies, its certainly defensible).

But if you accept legacy admissions, you have to give up opposition to affirmative action (unless, I suppose, you are, well, of questionable morality).

The idea is this: universities think that they are better off by admitting legacies because this helps build their endowments. Universities also think they are better off using affirmative action policies to ensure a diverse student body. To oppose affirmative action policies but not legacy admissions means

1) You think you know better than just about any university anywhere, and
2) Your awesome knowledge results in reasons that we should privilege children of (overwhelmingly white) rich people or otherwise high status people while simultaneously holding non-white or non-privileged students to the highest possible standard.

You could obviously go on and on here to make that connection tighter. In any case, that is just sick.
I didn't really respond to what you said, and just kinda ranted, sorry.

Legacies or admissions of the super rich obviously help colleges out. They also help out the most privileged people on the planet, and, - because of past racist policies that almost all "good" colleges had in the past - they privilege white people. So that is really my main complaint: of course you have to do legacy (or whatever) admissions in some sense. But if you complain about affirmative action (almost all of which is easily re-interpretable as class based rather than race based) admits but not legacies, you are simply supporting a fundamentally flawed, "neo-aristocratic" and racist system.
Yup, I agree with the rant as well. I was just trying to figure out to what extent legacy admission could be justified at all, and whether that justification could be made independent of the justification for affirmative action.