June 27, 2011

A apt quote about legacy admissions

I'm late in reading a lot of my Google Reader subscriptions, but this article on legacy admissions by Richard Posner makes some compelling points, and has a very compelling quote:

Admitting an applicant to an elite college because one or both of his parents went there is offensive in a nation whose constitution forbids the granting of titles of nobility. It confers an arbitrary advantage, based on ancestry rather than on merit or promise. The advantage is not primarily that the preferentially admitted student receives a better education; he may not, because the fact that he would not have been admitted without a preference suggests that he may not be a motivated or talented student; and you cannot make silk purses out of sow’s ears. But his degree from an elite college will open doors; prospective employers, even if they discover that an applicant is the child of an alumnus of the college he attended, will not know whether he was one of the alumni children who wouldn’t have been admitted had it not been for the connection. The student will also derive social benefits (prestige, maybe some extra refinement) and valuable contacts from hobnobbing with the other students; elite colleges have a disproportionate number of elite students. 

Legacy admissions might be in the best interest of the universities for the sake of fundraising, but it is not in the best interests of society, nor is it particularly salient given that most of the private universities where legacy admissions are of great advantage generally already have multi-billion dollar endowments.

No comments:

Post a Comment