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The media landscape is changing fast

At Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, specifically, a black student is 80 percent less likely to be a legacy than a white one. Essentially, Kahlenberg said, it's "heaping extra advantages on to students who have already been given a lot.

Data backs this theory up. More than 70 percent of students at the most competitive universities are from families with income in the upper 25 percent, according to a study from January.

Affirmative Action for the Rich

But that's not necessarily the reality. Laginess suggested that if an admissions practice is unfair to students in certain socioeconomic classes, it shouldn't be used. Wealthy families have long manipulated college admissions in ways that are equally dubious but within the bounds of law.

They pay exorbitant fees for college consultants, or have personal statements written by outside companies. It is not unimaginable to consider the ubiquity of these practices. Yet, they have time and again demonstrated excellence despite severely underfunded schools for black and Latinx students and other institutional barriers which have limited opportunities for people of color.

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White families, on the other hand, are literally buying their way into college and perpetuating the cesspool of white mediocrity at elite institutions. Over the past year, I have struggled with the conversations sparked by the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit against Harvard.

A friend of the plaintiff, Michael Wang, has been outspoken about the discrimination he had felt as an Asian-American college applicant. While he now claims he does not want affirmative action abolished, Mr. Wang remains complicit in bolstering a toxic narrative which argues that a race-neutral admissions process is the only solution to achieving educational equity for Asian-Americans.

But I contend that affirmative action has not harmed me.

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When I applied to Harvard, I wrote a personal essay about my Korean heritage and its intersection with queerness. My identity as a Korean-American overlaps with all aspects of my life and it felt disingenuous to write solely about my sexuality. Affirmative action allowed me to present an application that felt true to my identities beyond just one facet, acknowledging the role my Korean identity played in my experiences. If students vote to eliminate legacy preferences on their given campus, the groups plan to build alliances with alumni who oppose legacy preferences on principle.

Students at the other seven institutions involved—Duke, Swarthmore, Emory, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Vanderbilt, and Amherst—plan to pursue referenda later or use other means to draw attention to this issue, such as op-eds. At the very least, student organizers say, they want colleges to be transparent about their policies and disclose any written documents outlining how legacy preference is weighed in the admissions process.

Examining the College Admissions Process – Whitman Wire

While universities typically disclose whether they use legacy preferences or not, they tend not to publicize details on how the process actually works—how heavily such preferences are weighted, for example, and how many students benefit each year. Many college officials defend legacy preferences as a mere tiebreaker among otherwise equally qualified applicants.

Such a relationship may be one consideration among a great many factors. But evidence suggests that legacy is a significant factor at many elite schools. Research from the Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade of 10 highly selective colleges suggests being a legacy provides a boost equivalent to scoring points higher on the SAT out of points.

At many prestigious colleges, the relatives of alumni abound on campus.