Last week, Harvard won in a Supreme Court battle against affirmative action. This week, the college faces scrutiny for favoring legacy and donor-related applications.
The Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) organization filed their complaint to the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, decrying Harvard's admissions process for favoring applicants based on familial connections.
"Each year, Harvard College grants special preference in its admissions process to hundreds of mostly white students – not because of anything they have accomplished, but rather solely because of who their relatives are," LCR wrote on behalf of Chica Project, African Community Economic Development of New England, and Greater Boston Latino Network.
The complainants stated that these students, whose parents donated to Harvard or are Harvard Alumni, make up 15 percent of Harvard's admitted students. The lawyers pointed to data from 2014 to 2019, which suggests that donor-related applicants were almost 7 times more likely to be admitted to Harvard than non-donor applicants. Legacy applicants were almost 6 times more likely to be admitted than non-legacy applicants.
"The students who receive this preferential treatment – based solely on familial ties – are overwhelmingly white. Nearly 70 percent of donor-related applicants are white, and nearly 70 percent of legacy applicants are also white."
These applicants are part of a group called "ALDC", which refers to athletic recruits, legacies, those on the dean's interest list, and children of faculty and staff.
In 2021, The Journal of Labor Economics published research which suggested that more than 43 percent of white applicants admitted were ALDCs. Among African American, Asian American, and Hispanic applicants, the percentage was less than 16 each. The authors of the paper also claim that approximately 3 out of 4 white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they weren't in the ALDC category.
“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it," said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of LCR. "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"