There is quite a bit of noise being made about legacies in regards to the college admission process and how that relates to the immoral system of race-based admission as practiced by the likes of the University of Michigan.
The Wall Street Journal had a big piece on this yesterday and as I turned on my radio this morning, the Disaster That Is The Morning Spin (featuring the limp and distracted Ron Rosenbaum) was also discussing the issue.
As I told Ron this morning, there is absolutely no logical equivalency between race-based admissions and legacy-based admissions. The former takes race into consideration as a condition of acceptance. The latter does not. The former is morally wrong, the latter perhaps just unfair.
Now, if whites happen to benefit more from the legacy system (which would be expected due to past discrimination at mainly private schools) then that is an unintended consequence. Again, as I told Ron, the admissions officers are not accepting them more frequently because they are a legacy and WHITE, they are accepting them more frequently because they are LEGACIES. There is nothing stopping a black, Hispanic or native American legacy from getting the added benefit of legacy status. In fact, coupled with the points they get from the color of their skin, adding legacy status undoubtedly puts many of them even further ahead.
This legacy flap is being treated as the "Gotcha" that the media loves and the political hacks lick their chops over. "What does legacy preference do to advance fairness and merit" asks Theodore M. Shaw, a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (Incorporated!). "Why is it more defensible than an attempt to include people from minority groups that have been excluded in the past and are still under-represented?"
It is more defensible because blacks and other minority groups that are deemed under-represented are not necessarily harmed by legacy preference more than whites. Someone could argue that it is unfair to all groups that the legacies get in more frequently, but they would have to demonstrate that the test scores of legacies are much lower than those of non-legacies (as they are when comparing minority students who get accepted and whites who don't). At Harvard, the SAT scores of legacies are just two points below the school's overall average, which would be expected of students coming from a family tradition of academic excellence.
So this gotcha! is just nothing more than a red-herring to distract the country from the real issue being considered: can an institution use race as an admission criteria? Ron Rosenbaum (a lawyer who referred to the historic Bakke case today as "I think that was the case that said quotas were illegal" You think? Do your homework, putz!) would say yes. The Supreme Court will decide for good in the spring.