(Image via apnews.com)
Staff Writer: Maya Arruda
When I was applying for college in high school, they made us use Common App for every college, so you only had to fill out one application form, no matter how many colleges you applied to.
Part of the application was a questionnaire, and some of the questions seemed odd. Yeah, I got why they wanted my name, demographics info, and the year I would graduate high school, but I could not understand why they wanted to know where my mother went to college.
Flash forward four years, and I finally get it. The answer was legacy admissions.
Legacy admissions are where a relative’s alum status at a particular college makes a student more likely to be accepted. There can be primary legacy students, where the parent attended the college, or secondary legacy students, where a grandparent was an alumnus; primary legacies are more impactful towards student admission.
The history of legacy admissions is about as ugly and disgusting as a road-kill raccoon.
Legacy admissions started in the 1920s to gatekeep higher education from Jewish and immigrant students. This practice allowed colleges, especially prestigious colleges like Princeton or Yale, to accept mediocre WASP sons of significant donors and reject academically more robust immigrant descendants.
Recently, legacy admissions have come under scrutiny for warranted ethical concerns after the Supreme Court ruled Affirmative Action policies unconstitutional.
The complete court verdict on this case can be found here.
The complaint filed against Harvard that caused Affirmative Action to be outlawed also sparked an investigation by the Department of Education into Harvard’s abnormally high admission of legacy students, most of whom are white and privileged.
An additional lawsuit against Harvard for its use of legacy admissions after the Supreme Court ruling was filed can be found here.
While the Supreme Court judgment on legacy admissions is still out for lunch, Massachusetts state law began the process of making legacy admissions illegal in June 2023 through House Bill H.1282 and Senate Bill S.821.
By these laws, the application cannot legally include any information involving where the applicant’s relatives went to college. These laws are in effect for the initial application for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year.
“When deciding whether to grant admission to an applicant, a public higher education institution shall not consider the applicant’s familial relationship to a graduate of the institution. A public higher education institution shall not include in the documents that it uses to consider an applicant for admission information that discloses the name of any college or university that any relative of the applicant attended,” both laws state.
The University of Massachusetts is specifically mentioned in the House and Senate Bill banning legacy administrations. However, is UMass Dartmouth ready for the new laws?
Before 2023, some satellites of the University of Massachusetts openly considered legacy status for applications while others did not. When I applied in 2019, some of the questions gave legacy status to UMass Dartmouth, indicating that legacy consideration was a part of their admissions process.
At first glance, it is difficult to tell if UMass Dartmouth is taking the threat of the new laws to heart.
Their admissions information webpage looks the same as when I was looking to apply four years ago when both Affirmative Action and Legacy Admissions were still legal. Their notice for non-discrimination linked at the bottom of the page is from 2007 and still contains Affirmative Action plan information.
I decided to dig deeper and investigate if their application forms are updated to comply with the 2023 state anti-legacy laws that will be coming into effect. There are two application options on the UMassD application website: Common App or a UMassD application service.
On the application form connected to their UMassD application service, under the relationships section, you can input your family’s contact information, which is suitable for emergencies. You can also say whether or not your parents are graduates of UMassD, which is legacy information.
This photo asks for information that discloses where a relative, in this case the applicant’s father, attended college. Specifically, if they attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which the University of Massachusetts will be legally forbidden to ask for as part of their application by laws H.1282 and S.821.
However, considering Common App’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision to illegalize Affirmative Action programs, where they essentially make it the college’s responsibility to turn off Affirmative Action information for their applications, it is likely that Common App treats legacy information under the new laws with the same Laissez-faire attitude as well.
UMass Dartmouth needs to update its applications to comply with education reform laws to avoid legal consequences once both laws are fully in effect. Legacy information cannot be requested in an application for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year once S.821 and H.1282 are in effect.
Even though these anti-legacy reform laws are not in full effect, UMass Dartmouth should be proactive in removing legacy information from their applications on all platforms.
Our school should not keep admissions policies rooted in antisemitism and discrimination.