The suit alleges that “the students who receive that preferential treatment are ‘overwhelmingly White’ and make up as much as 15% of Harvard’s admitted students. The plaintiffs called on the Department of Education to investigate Harvard’s use of donor and legacy preferences and ‘the resulting unjustified disparate impact.’”
After the Supreme Court released their decision ending affirmative action, Nicole Rura a spokesperson for Harvard said that the university was already “in the process of reviewing aspects of our admissions policies to assure compliance with the law and to carry forward Harvard’s longstanding commitment to welcoming students of extraordinary talent and promise who come from a wide range of backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences…As this work continues, and moving forward, Harvard remains dedicated to opening doors to opportunity and to redoubling our efforts to encourage students from many different backgrounds to apply for admission.”
Since June, a number of prestigious universities have already stopped using legacy admissions, including Amherst, MIT, and Wesleyan University.
At a press conference, litigation fellow with Lawyers for Civil Rights Michael Kippins said that preferential treatment for legacy and donor applicants was a “discriminatory practice. It is an unfair and unearned advantage for students or applicants who have applied with these preferences in mind.” We “filed this federal civil rights complaint to level the playing field for applicants of color who overwhelmingly are not benefited by these preferences,” stated Kippins.
The lawsuit even cited the June decision from the high court, and even quoted the majority ruling in part, “College admissions are zero-sum, and a benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former at the expense of the latter.”
According to a letter from Ramzi Ajami, a regional director of the department, the civil rights investigation is trying to determine whether the Ivy League university “discriminates on the basis of race by using donor and legacy preferences in its undergraduate admissions process in violation of Title VI and its implementing regulations.”
Under Title VI, any program receiving federal funding from the Department of Education is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
The department’s letter also stated, “Opening the complaint for investigation in no way implies that [the office for civil rights] has made a determination on the merits of the complaint,” continuing, “During the investigation, [the office] is a neutral fact-finder, collecting and analyzing relevant evidence from the Complainant, the University, and other sources.”
Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) commended the Education Department for “taking the necessary steps to ensure that our higher education system works for every American, not just a privileged few.”
In a statement, Johnson said, “Legacy and donor admissions have long served to perpetuate an inherently racist college admissions process…Every talented and qualified student deserves an opportunity to attend the college of their choice. Affirmative Action existed to support that notion. Legacy admissions exist to undermine it.”