Civil Rights Complaint Challenges Practice of Harvard Legacy Admissions
Friday, July 7, 2023
Following the Supreme Court's decision to end race-based affirmative action, a Boston-based civil rights group is working to end the practice of legacy admissions at Harvard University and ultimately, schools nationwide.
The nonprofit Lawyers for Civil Rights has filed a federal civil rights complaint to the Department of Education claiming legacy admissions discriminate against students of color by favoring the mostly white applicants of alumni.
Oren Sellstrom, litigation director at Lawyers for Civil Rights, said donor-related and legacy applicants are nearly seven times more likely to be admitted.
"The Supreme Court's recent ruling against affirmative action just heightens the need to systematically remove all the other obstacles that stand in the way to qualified applicants of color," Sellstrom asserted.
Sellstrom pointed out the complaint alleges legacy admissions violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was filed on behalf of Black and Latino community groups.
Since the high court's ruling, Sellstrom noted he has heard from students who believe they would have had a better chance to attend Harvard had legacy admissions not been in place.
The federal complaint noted in recent years numerous colleges and universities have ended the practice of legacy admissions, including all schools of higher education in Colorado, the University of California and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sellstrom argued Harvard could voluntarily do the same.
"Harvard is at this point on the wrong end of history," Sellstrom contended. "We hope that they will eliminate these preferences as so many other schools have done."
Sellstrom added legacy admissions are not based on academic merit and discriminate against qualified and deserving students of color. In Harvard's class of 2019, roughly 28% of graduates were legacy students.
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