More on the affirmative-action/legacy-preferences symbiosis from Peter Sacks, from this week’s Chronicle:
That elite colleges will serve the public good only as long as it does not interfere with their financial survival may be an important reason why they continue to support affirmative action. The relatively small number of members of underrepresented minority groups admitted has little impact on endowments, and racial preferences allow colleges to preserve definitions of merit that largely benefit children from affluent and well-educated families that donate money. Elite institutions would be hard pressed not to advocate affirmative action while offering equivalent preferences to children of alumni — a largely white and affluent group. Indeed, Golden argues rather persuasively that it was the link between legacy and racial preferences that saved affirmative action in the Supreme Court’s 2003 rulings in the University of Michigan cases. He notes that five of the nine justices had qualified for a legacy preference themselves or had children who had.
Alumni prefences: good for corporatist colleges, and a great tool of argument for affirmative-action supporters. Too bad for the rest of us.