Legacy Admissions May Be Challenged in Court

    An increase in law-journal articles this year challenging the legality of legacy admissions indicates that the issue may soon be taken to court.

    Legacy admission — the practice of granting special preference to children of alumni when considering candidates for admittance — is a tradition long practiced by both public and private schools nationwide.

    Those practicing legacy admission defend the system as a way of showing appreciation for alumni support, financial and otherwise; however, critics condemn it as giving advantage to those who already have considerable advantage over other candidates.

    Instead of disputing the fairness of legacy admission, the increased journalistic attention evaluates such practices on a legal basis.

    A recent article published by a group of lawyers in the Santa Clara Review argued that the overarching premise of the 1866 Civil Rights Act was equal rights for all citizens, and that these rights should not be based on heredity. The article advocates a ban on legacy admissions in public and private universities.

    “I’m going to do whatever I can to make these things go away,” said lawyer Steven D. Shadowen, lead author of the article.

    A similar article — by Carlton F.W. Larson, a professor at UC Davis School of Law — was published early this November in the Washington University Law Review.

    Carson argued that the nobility clause of the Constitution, which bans titles such as “earl” and “duke” in federal or state government, in fact advises against the use of all hereditary privilege in public institutions. If Carson’s argument holds up in court, it would ban legacy admissions at only public schools.

    The authors of both articles are currently seeking plantiffs to challenge the legality of legacy admissions in court.

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