Harvard’s practice of giving preference to undergraduate applicants with family ties to elite colleges is facing a legal challenge.
Advocacy groups have petitioned the government to end Ivy League universities’ legacy admissions.
This policy has long been seen as a privilege for whites and the rich.
The federal complaint comes days after the Supreme Court ruled that Harvard and other US colleges cannot weigh race as a major factor in admissions.
In a landmark ruling Thursday, the nation’s Supreme Court voted 6-3 to overturn the decades-old measure of affirmative action.
Affirmative action has long been defended as a policy useful for increasing diversity on university campuses, but Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion that the process used by Harvard and others “picks winners and losers based on the color of their skin.”
Spurred by that decision, Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR), a nonprofit based in Boston, filed a federal civil rights complaint against Harvard on Monday for giving hundreds of white students special preference in its admissions process. They have achieved something, but only because of who their relatives are.”
A complaint was filed with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
Harvard declined to comment.
The complaint cites studies published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a think tank, which show that nearly 70% of legacy and donor-related applicants are white, and that such students are six to seven times more likely to attend Harvard than those who do not. – Hereditary applicants. The NBER report also adds that among white students who enroll, more than 43% are athletes, conservatives, those on the Dean’s Interest List, and children of faculty and staff.
These preferences are “awarded without regard to the applicant’s credentials or qualifications” and are given to “systematically disadvantaged students of color.”
The complaint, filed on behalf of three groups representing black and Latino communities in the New England region, asks the Department of Education to investigate Harvard’s legacy options, deem them illegal and order the university to stop the practice if it wants to receive federal funding. .
“Harvard has no birthright,” Ivan Espinosa-Madrigal, LCR’s executive director, said in a statement. “As the Supreme Court recently noted, ‘the elimination of racial discrimination is the elimination of all’.”
He added: “Why do we reward children for the privileges and advantages enjoyed by previous generations? Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit and should have no bearing on the college admissions process.”
Congresswoman Barbara Lee agreed. The California Democrat tweeted: “Let’s be clear: White people still have affirmative action. It’s called legacy inclusion.”
Harvard declined to comment on the complaint on Monday, but the BBC responded last week to the Supreme Court ruling.
In a statement Thursday, the university said it continues to welcome “people of many backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences.”
Legacy admissions have already been banned at institutions including the University of California and all of Colorado’s public universities, and there are several initiatives targeting the practice elsewhere.
But it still accounts for about a quarter of the newly admitted students at some of the nation’s high schools, and supporters argue that the policy creates a strong alumni community and donor base.