HomeCampusCollege Presidents Support Harvard and Legacy Admissions, Despite Concerns for AAPI Applicants

College Presidents Support Harvard and Legacy Admissions, Despite Concerns for AAPI Applicants

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Since the Students for Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit against Harvard’s alleged discrimination against Asian Americans in the institution’s admissions process, various stakeholders continue to contribute their stances to the ongoing conversation on affirmative action and its racial impact.

A strong majority of college and university presidents are backing Harvard’s defense of its affirmative action practices in admissions despite their lack of confidence in Harvard winning its case, based on a recent survey published by Gallup and Insider Higher Ed.

Over 62 percent of the 784 private and public university presidents, who responded to the 2019 Survey of College and University Presidents, agree that colleges should continue to consider race and ethnicity, alongside other factors, in the admissions process. 

It is becoming increasingly popular for elite universities to consider factors beyond test scores and grade point average, such as race, stories of hardships, letters of recommendation, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria, to comprehensively evaluate their prospective students. Nearly 8 out of 10 presidents believe that the public does not understand this process — often referred to as holistic admissions.

Regardless of the trial’s outcome, presidents still held concerns about potential discrimination against Asian American applicants in college admissions. Forty two percent of campus executives said that they agree or strongly agree to the survey statement: “I worry some Asian American applicants to top colleges face discrimination”.

The debate against the advantages of considering race in admissions has also brought to question the admissions benefits brought on by other factors like athlete eligibility, low-income background, and legacy status.

Legacy status, which is given to applicants who are relatives of alumni, tends to favor the White and wealthy, who already disproportionately make up the student demographic at colleges and elite universities.

A former Princeton admissions officer argued that giving preference to legacy students is a “deliberate and robust admissions policy” that serves as a “White affirmative action.” At Harvard alone, legacy students made up one-third of its incoming first-year class in 2017.

Despite the advantages this preference provides, campus figureheads still support the practice and do not anticipate policy changes. From the same survey mentioned above, still more than half of the presidents at private and public academic institutions (52 percent) support the consideration of legacy status in admissions at private colleges.

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