The practice of legacy admissions—preferential consideration for the children of alumni—has emerged as a national flash point since the Supreme Court banned affirmative action in June. Even some prominent Republicans are joining the Biden Administration in calling for its end. David Remnick speaks with the U.S. Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, about the politics behind college admissions. Cardona sees legacy preference as part of a pattern that discourages many students from applying to selective schools but notes that it is not the whole problem. How can access to higher education, he asks, be more equitable when the quality of K-12 education is so inequitable?
Plus, Jeannie Suk Gersen, a professor at Harvard Law School, looks at the problems facing admissions officers now that race cannot be a consideration in maintaining diversity. Gersen has been reporting for The New Yorker on the legal fight over affirmative action and the movement to end legacy admissions. She speaks with the dean of admissions at Wesleyan University, one of the schools that voluntarily announced an end to legacy preference after the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action. “So far, the responses have been overwhelmingly positive,” Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez tells her. “But we’re obviously some time removed from the results of the decision. . . . I think it’s both symbolic and potentially substantive in terms of signalling our value to not have individually unearned benefits.”