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After Supreme Court Guts Affirmative Action, Minority Advocates Sue Harvard Over Legacy Admissions Policy

— July 5, 2023

The lawsuit claims that Harvard discriminates in its admissions process by giving preferential treatment to the children of wealthy donors and alumni.

A coalition of minority advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit against Harvard University’s governing body, claiming that the school discriminates against applicants by giving preferential treatment to the children of donors and alumni.

According to CNN, the lawsuit was filed by the Lawyers for Civil Rights group on behalf of the following organizations:

  • The Chica Project;
  • The Greater Boston Latino Network; and
  • African Community Economic Development of New England.

Collectively, the three plaintiff organizations claim that students who receive preferential “legacy” admissions are “overwhelming White.”

These legacy students, the lawsuit claims, account for up to 15% of all students admitted to Harvard annually.

“This preferential treatment has nothing to do with an applicant’s merit. Instead, it is an unfair and unearned benefit that is conferred solely based on the family that the applicant is born into,” Lawyers for Civil Rights said in a press statement. “This custom, pattern, and practice is exclusionary and discriminatory. It severely disadvantages applicants of color.”

The lawsuit, notes CNN, was filed less than a week after the Supreme Court issued a ruling that broadly prohibits college officials from using race as a primary consideration in the admissions process.

Lawyers for Civil Rights quoted the Supreme Court’s conservative-majority opinion in their claim.

“College admissions are zero-sum, and a benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former at the expense of the latter,” the justices wrote.

Now, the plaintiff organizations are extending the Supreme Court’s controversial finding, saying that a subset of Harvard legacy students would not have earned admission to the university on their own merits.

A classically designed stone building with Corinthian columns and a carved frieze, with a clear blue sky in the background.
The Supreme Court building. Photo by Mark Thomas, courtesy of Pixabay.

“The need for the Department of Education to put a stop to this discriminatory practice is particularly acute now that the Supreme Court has severely limited the use of race as a factor in higher education admissions processes, which is expected to have a negative impact on campus diversity,” the lawsuit states.

“Black, Latinx, and Asian-American applicants are all dramatically under-represented among those who receive Donor or Legacy Preferences,” it adds.

CNN reports that Harvard’s most recent incoming class—the class of 2027—is 15.3% African-American, 29.9% Asian-American, 11.3% Latinx, and 2.7% Native American and indigenous Hawaiian.

The remainder of the class—about 40.8% of accepted undergraduates—is presumed to be White.

Somewhat interestingly, these statistics indicate that every ethnic group—except White Americans and Latinx Americans—are over-represented at Harvard.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit raises critical concerns about the place of wealth and money in college admissions.

“Why are we rewarding children for privileges and advantages accrued by prior generations?” Lawyers for Civil Rights Executive Director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal said. “Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit, and should have no bearing on the college admissions process.”\


Harvard slapped with lawsuit over legacy admissions: ‘Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit’

Lawsuit alleges Harvard gives preferential treatment to legacy admissions, who are ‘overwhelmingly’ White

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