The Significance of Legacy Admissions: Findings Reveal Influence of ‘Racial Hierarchy’

**Legacy Admission: Examining the Controversial Practice and its Link to Race**

**The Complaint Against Harvard University and Legacy Admissions**
Community groups, including the Chica Project, African Community Economic Development of New England, and the Greater Boston Latino Network, have recently filed a complaint against Harvard University, claiming that the practice of legacy admissions constitutes racial discrimination. The complaint argues that the preferential treatment granted to legacies, of which 70% are white, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

**Exploring the Rationale Behind Legacy Admissions**
Research into people’s attitudes towards legacy admissions reveals that support for the practice is rooted in a desire to maintain a racial hierarchy. This hierarchy places white Americans at the top, while ethnic minorities occupy subordinate positions. Maintaining this dominance allows the white majority to retain control over valuable resources such as power, status, and prestige.

**Social Dominance Orientation: A Tool for Examining Attitudes**
The concept of social dominance orientation provides a valuable construct for measuring individuals’ support for hierarchical structures. Those who advocate for the existing hierarchy will support policies that benefit the dominant group and oppose those that they perceive as benefiting ethnic minorities. This construct will help shed light on attitudes towards legacy admissions and affirmative action.

**Study 1: Examining Attitudes Towards Legacy Admissions and Affirmative Action**
In a study involving 80 UCLA students, participants were asked to rate statements based on their attitudes towards the social dominance orientation. This measurement allowed researchers to determine levels of support for maintaining racial hierarchy. Participants were then randomly assigned to review either a legacy admissions policy or an affirmative action policy. Their support for the assigned policy was measured through agreement or disagreement with various statements. The study revealed that individuals who aimed to maintain the social dominance of the white majority tended to support legacy admissions and oppose affirmative action.

**Study 2: Unraveling Support for Legacy Admissions**
To delve deeper into the reasons why Asian American and white American students supported legacy admissions, a second study focused solely on Asian American views. Participants were randomly assigned to read about legacy admissions benefiting either Asian Americans or white Americans. Results showed that Asian Americans supported legacy admissions only when white Americans were perceived as the beneficiaries. This finding indicates that support for legacy admissions is driven not by self-interest, but by the desire to maintain the racial hierarchy.

**Implications for Equality and College Admissions Policies**
While policies like affirmative action strive to increase access for historically excluded groups, legacy admissions perpetuate existing inequalities by predominantly benefiting white individuals. With the recent ban on considering race in college admissions, universities now have the opportunity to reevaluate their admission criteria. The concept of colorblindness, as emphasized by Justice John Roberts, demands that students be treated as individuals based on their experiences, rather than their race. However, legacy admissions fail to meet this standard, as they perpetuate racial disparities.

Legacy admissions have come under scrutiny due to their perceived link to racial discrimination. Research indicates that support for legacy admissions stems from a desire among some individuals to maintain a racial hierarchy, favoring the dominant white group. These findings raise important questions regarding the fairness and equity of college admissions practices. As universities strive for increased equality, legacy admissions may necessitate reevaluation to ensure fair and equitable admission decisions.

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