Activists Sue Harvard Over Legacy Admissions, Claim Violation of Civil Rights Act

Harvard University | Source:

Harvard University is facing a lawsuit over its legacy admissions policy, a move that comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions. The lawsuit has been filed by civil rights activists who argue that the legacy admissions policy unfairly benefits mostly white children of wealthy alumni over minorities.

The lawsuit was filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston-based nonprofit, on behalf of the black and Latino communities in New England. The group alleges that Harvard’s legacy admissions policy violates the Civil Rights Act. Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director at Lawyers for Civil Rights, questioned the fairness of rewarding children for privileges and advantages accrued by prior generations.

The lawsuit comes after the Supreme Court ruled against race-based admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Supporters of affirmative action have argued that the policy helped to counterbalance the Ivy League school’s legacy admissions, which they claim favors the wealthy elite.

Between 2014 and 2019, Harvard had an acceptance rate of 6% but enrolled 33% of legacy applicants and nearly 47% of applicants who were children of faculty or staff. William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard, defended the practice, stating that legacy status gives students a “slight tip” in the admissions process.

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action has led to calls from both sides of the political aisle for an end to legacy admissions. President Joe Biden has urged universities to rethink legacy admissions, arguing that they “expand privilege instead of opportunity.” Similarly, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) criticized admissions policies that give “preferential treatment” to certain people.