June 24, 2024

Wesleyan University ends legacy admissions after Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action

An elite liberal arts university has taken steps to reevaluate its admissions process by eliminating legacy preferences following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action.

Wesleyan University, a private college in Connecticut, announced ia letter on Wednesday that ending the use of legacy entries would benefit diversity on campus and cited the Court’s ruling as a catalyst in the decision.

“As a result of the Supreme Court’s recent affirmative action decision, we believe it is important to formally end selective admissions for legacy applicants,” wrote Wesley University President Michael S Roth.

“We still value the ongoing relationships that come from multi-generational Wesleyan attendance, but there will be no ‘barriers’ in the selection process.”

The school is the first prominent higher education institution to end legacy admissions following the Court’s decision to end affirmative action in June.

Going forward, Wesleyan said it will promote a diverse student body by recruiting students from areas across the US outside of major cities and coasts, recruiting veterans and investing in a pipeline to recruit community college graduates.

They also plan to increase financial aid support by normalizing a three-year option, create a scholarship program to recruit and support African undergraduates and develop more credit-free online courses.

In his letter, Mr. Roth clarified that a place was never guaranteed because of an applicant’s affiliation with the university and that alumni family members are accepted on their own merits “as has almost always been the case for a long time.”

The announcement marks Wesleyan’s formal end to any legacy-based admissions.

Wesleyan joins a small group of other colleges and universities that have ended legacy admissions such as Amherst College which ended legacy preference in 2021, John Hopkins University which made the decision in 2020 and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which never considered legacy.

For more than 20 years, colleges and universities have used affirmative action to help build a diverse pool of accepted students.

Race is not used as the sole factor in determining a student’s acceptance but it can be considered if there are two applicants with nearly identical qualifications who meet or exceed the school’s application standard.

Mr. Roth echoed this in his letter, saying Wesleyan has “never been a check box that reflected a student’s racial identity” and has always taken a “holistic approach” by looking at applicant records, letters of recommendation, college essays and more.

But in a 6-3 decision last month, the Court struck down the long-used tool in two consolidated cases: Fair Admissions Students v Harvard and Fair Admissions Students v University of North Carolina.

Now, institutions of higher education can no longer consider race as a factor unless a student claims information about their race or culture in their personal essay.

Affirmative action advocates have called on colleges and universities to reevaluate their admissions processes and establish other methods to foster a diverse campus.

President Joe Biden urged schools “not to abandon their commitment to ensuring student bodies of diverse backgrounds” and ordered the Department of Education to analyze practices that hinder diversity.

Those practices include legacy admissions that Mr. Biden said, “spread privilege instead of opportunity.”

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