Higher Education Uncategorized

Legacy Admissions Questioned at Texas A&M

Jan. 3, 2004, 7:42PM
Legislators slam A&M over legacy admissions
Role of

family ties in acceptance called `institutional racism’
Copyright 2004

Houston Chronicle

Blood ties to alumni, sometimes known as the other affirmative action,

are the deciding factor in the admission of more than 300 white Texas A&M University freshmen annually,

according to data provided by the school. Such students — known as “legacy admits” — equal

roughly the overall total of blacks admitted to A&M each year. Only a handful of black students a year

are admitted because of legacy points.

“That’s a lot of kids being advantaged because

A&M is where mommy and daddy went,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston. “Clearly, if you want

to go to A&M, it pays to be a legacy applicant rather than black. I wonder why no one’s sued it on

those grounds.”

Legacy preference programs are receiving new attention as the nation’s

universities reassess admissions policies in the aftermath of last spring’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling

that race may be an admissions factor on a case-by-case basis. U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.,

recently filed a bill to require colleges to disclose the race and economic status of first-year

students related to alumni, and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has called for an end to

college legacy programs.

A&M’s program is drawing particular fire because university

President Robert Gates recently announced the university, now free from a court ruling prohibiting

racial preferences, won’t consider race in admissions. Coleman and other black legislators cited a

seeming contradiction between Gates’ rhetoric that students be admitted strictly because of merit and

a program they say perpetuates class distinction and white advantage.

Gates, president

for 1 1/2 years, said he doesn’t have a gut-level feeling about legacies, much less a thought-out one,

because he inherited the program and knows little about it. He said a task force will study its


The task force won’t operate in a vacuum. State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth,

said he plans to file legislation to end A&M’s program, as early as this spring if a special session

is called. Burnam filed such bills twice before, but both died in committee.

Burnam said

that because the data show so few minorities benefit from legacy preferences, he believes the school

orchestrated protests of his bill by minorities during legislative hearings on one of his bills in


“I have never been as angry at state employees as I was at A&M’s during those

hearings,” Burnam said. “Even then, I knew in my gut they were using minority kids to continue a

program that reflects the past, meaning the institutional racism of the 20th century, rather than the

future, which will be majority African American and Hispanic.”

Typically, anywhere from

1,650 to more than 2,000 A&M applicants a year receive legacy points, so called because they reward the

grandchildren, children or siblings of A&M graduates. Such applicants receive 4 points on a 100-point

scale that also takes into account such factors as class rank, test scores, extracurricular activities,

community service and others.

Most A&M applicants admitted with legacy points don’t

need them to get in. But in 2003, 312 whites were admitted who wouldn’t have been without their alumni

ties. In 2002, that figure was 321.

The legacy program was the difference for six blacks

and 27 Hispanics in 2003, and three blacks and 25 Hispanics in 2002.

A&M officials noted

that minority legacies are usually admitted at roughly the same rates as white legacies. They also

stressed that having legacy points is no guarantee of being admitted.

“I wish I had the

numbers for how many applicants with legacy points don’t get in,” said Frank Ashley, A&M’s acting

assistant provost for enrollment. “There are roughly as many of them. I know because I hear from

alumni parents when their kid’s application is rejected.”

Although A&M announced in

early December it won’t consider race in admissions, Gates is pledging a greater commitment to

recruiting minorities. Having already created a high-ranking position in the school’s administration

to oversee diversity efforts, Gates says he will create scholarships for students who come from lower-

income families and beef up outreach efforts to large urban areas.

Legacy programs date

to the 19th century, but they became more widespread in the early 20th century as universities became

more selective. Ostensibly instituted to reward alumni support, they had the effect of limiting

enrollment of Jews and other minorities.

Today, nearly all selective private

universities and some public universities give an edge to legacies, largely to boost alumni giving.

Rice is among Texas’ private universities that take into account alumni ties — it has no point system

— but A&M is the state’s only public school with such a program.

The largest legacy

population nationally is at Notre Dame, where sons and daughters of alumni comprise 23 percent of the

student population. They’re more than 10 percent at most elite private schools, including Harvard,

Yale and Princeton.

At most top schools, legacy students are accepted at two or three

times the rate of other applicants. Massachusetts’ Amherst College, for example, accepts nearly half

of alumni children who apply, compared with 17 percent of all applicants.

Because they

aren’t racially discriminatory on their face, legacy preferences are considered less vulnerable to

legal challenge than affirmative action. Politically, though, their fates seem inextricably


The University of Georgia, for instance, scrapped its legacy program after a

circuit court struck down its affirmative action program. Critics cite studies that suggest alumni

offspring score lower on admission tests. And legacy students sometimes describe an “uneasiness”

about how they’re perceived similar to that described by minorities.

But “unlike race,

which is predominantly a proxy for disadvantage, legacy admissions are an attribute of advantage,”

University of Houston law professor Michael Olivas wrote in an article in the latest edition of the

educational journal CASE Currents. “They typically come from well-educated families and therefore are

privy to many economic, educational and other psychosocial benefits.”

Ashley counters

that A&M’s admission categories include one that gives points for an applicant’s parents’ lack of

education — up to 6 points if neither parent finished high school. That balances it out, he


Although they also say legacy programs build a sense of community, most schools

are candid about acknowledging that long-term financial support is the primary reason for preferences.

Ashley said alumni parents of rejected applicants tell A&M they’re going to stop donating money or not

follow through on plans to give, though he has no idea how often they make good on such


State Rep. Fred Brown, R-College Station, defends A&M’s program but said he

would like it better if it were amended to give legacy points to students whose parents went to Prairie

View A&M, A&M-Kingsville and other schools in the A&M system. He said he will file a bill to effect

that change at the Legislature’s next regular session.

But if Burnam, Coleman and

others have their way, A&M might not have a legacy program by then. Passage of Burnam’s bill would

make Texas the first state to ban legacy preferences, though some black legislators say they’re more

interested in getting A&M to consider race than to discontinue legac
y preferences.


any change is made, national experts advise A&M to be proactive.

“Universities with a

history of statistically small minority populations should tread carefu
lly if they’re going to

maintain legacy programs,” said Dan Oren, a Yale professor of psychiatry and the author of Joining the

Club: A History of Jews and Yale. “They better have other minority outreach programs to make up for


Higher Education Uncategorized

San Antonio: Castro, Villareal, Menendez, & LULAC

A&M ‘legacy’ policy seen related to lack of minorities

By Matt Flores
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 01/08/2004 12:00 AM

Citing Texas A&M University’s poor record of attracting minority students, legislators Wednesday

called on the institution to abandon its practice of giving a boost in the admissions process to

children, grandchildren and siblings of alumni. “You can’t close the door on affirmative action and

make birthright an entitlement to admission,” state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said in a news


He was joined by state Reps. Mike Villarreal and Jose Menéndez, also San

Antonio Democrats, and members of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Simultaneous news conferences were held in Austin and Houston to denounce Texas A&M’s so-called

“legacy” policy, which has come under growing criticism since the university announced last month it

wouldn’t use race as a factor in its admissions policy.

Wednesday’s move was the

latest among several lawmakers who are pressuring Texas A&M to scrap the legacy policy. State Rep. Lon

Burnam, D-Fort Worth, already has said he intends to file legislation aimed at ending A&M’s legacy


The lawmakers and civil rights activists called on the university to

reconsider its legacy policy, saying it effectively gives preferences to Anglo students at a time when

the school is struggling to diversify.

Last year, Anglos accounted for 82 percent of

A&M’s student population while Hispanics made up 9 percent. African Americans accounted for 2 percent

and Asian Americans accounted for 3 percent.

By comparison, Anglos accounted for 60

percent of the student body at the University of Texas at Austin — the state’s other public flagship

institution — while Hispanics made up 14 percent and African Americans accounted for 3 percent. Asian

Americans made up 17 percent.

“The legacy program at A&M counters the worthy goal of

closing the gaps in Texas institutions,” said Villarreal, a 1992 A&M graduate.

He was

referring to the state’s “Closing the Gaps” initiative to bring about greater parity in college

attendance and graduation rates.

The U.S. Supreme Court last summer cleared the way for

Texas institutions to resume affirmative action practices, and some in the state, including UT-Austin

and Rice University, have since announced plans to revamp their admissions policies to include race


Texas A&M is the only public university in the state that gives preferences to

applicants who are the grandchildren, children or siblings of A&M graduates.


in some years A&M gives a boost to as many as 2,000 legacy applicants, university data showed the

consideration was the difference in admitting 345 new freshmen in 2003.

Of those

admitted because of the legacy consideration, 312 were Anglo, 27 were Hispanic and six were African

American. Only about 300 African Americans were admitted to the university as a whole in


“More students were admitted because Mom or Dad went to A&M than the total

number of African Americans admitted,” said Gary Bledsoe, state president of the National Association

for the Advancement of Colored People, who spoke at the news conference in Austin.

“The Texas A&M legacy program is inherently discriminatory toward minorities — and based on

nothing even resembling merit,” Bledsoe added.

Texas A&M officials didn’t respond to

interview requests, but in defending A&M’s position, school officials have said that legacy

considerations don’t guarantee admission and have noted that minority legacies are admitted at about

the same rate as Anglo legacies.

Late Wednesday, A&M President Robert Gates issued this


“As I indicated several weeks ago when I met with concerned legislators,

the admissions process has been under review and will continue to be evaluated to ensure that it

achieves one of the university’s primary objectives — that of having a student body that is more

representative of the state of Texas.”

And the university’s true problem in

diversifying its student body, officials say, lies with persuading prospective students to enroll, not

in admitting them. Fewer than half of Hispanic and African American students who are admitted to A&M

each year actually enroll.

Instead of concentrating on an affirmative action admissions

policy, Gates has embarked on efforts to award more scholarships to needy, first-generation college

students and to intensify outreach efforts in urban areas. Last summer, the school opened a center in

HemisFair Plaza to facilitate applications for admissions, housing and financial aid.

But Villarreal said he would give the university an “F” thus far in addressing minority


“They may be great efforts, but they are going to be judged on how their

minority numbers improve,” he said. “What really matters is who attends and who eventually walks

across the stage.”

Higher Education Uncategorized

Ellis, Barrientos, Dukes, Bledsoe, Harrington, & Others Call for Fairness at

Jan. 7, 2004
Press Release
From the

Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis
State Officials, Civil Rights Advocates
Call on

Texas A&M to Correct Admissions Policies

Austin, TX// Senators Rodney Ellis and Gonzalo

Barrientos were joined by State Representative Dawnna Dukes the NAACP, LULAC, MALDEF, and the Texas

Civil Rights project for a press conference on Wednesday focusing attention on the admissions situation

at Texas A&M University. The Houston Chronicle recently reported that Texas A&M, while refusing to

take race into consideration as an admission criterion, has the most active legacy admission program in


“To continue the Legacy Program at A&M while removing race as a consideration

for admission, in my mind, further erodes the image of this fine institution at a time that it needs to

do more to attract minority students,” said Senator Gonzalo Barrientos.

Similar press

conferences with elected officials and civil rights advocates took place simultaneously in Houston and

San Antonio as well. Participants in the press conferences highlighted the discrepancy in minority vs

Anglo enrollment at Texas A&M as well as the gap in minority vs legacy


“More students were admitted because mom or dad went to A&M, than the total

number of African Americans admitted,” said NAACP President Gary Bledsoe. “The Texas A&M legacy

program is inherently discriminatory towards minorities, and based on nothing even resembling


Texas A&M admitted 358 students last year through the legacy program. Of those,

only six were African American and 27 Hispanic.

Legacy admissions programs don’t just

hurt minorities seeking an education,” explained Senator Ellis, “this program is even bad for white

kids whose parents aren’t Aggies.”

All three press conferences in Texas focused on a

single theme: Texas A&M must change its admissions policies if it truly wishes to correct its minority


“As an alumnus of Texas A&M, I am truly disappointed that the University has

chosen to create an admissions policy that is contradictory to their stated goal of seeking to improve

minority admissions,” said Representative Dawnna Dukes. “Establishing scholarships for first

generation disadvantaged minority students, while giving preference to second and third generation

advantaged students is contradictory to an even-handed policy. An aggressive attempt to recruit

historically disadvantaged applicants is not achieved by giving historically advantaged applicants a

leg up. Such an admission policy cannot possibly increase minority student


Higher Education Uncategorized

Our Thesis vs Ayn Rand Institute

The Dec. 15 OpEdge of the Forth Worth Star Telegram, presents our first-week response to the

Texas A&M announcement alongside a very different opinion from the Ayn Rand Institute.

Like every other response to the Texas A&M opinion, the Ayn Rand Institute refuses to

deal with the fact that Texas higher education is under federal supervision for de-


Therefore the Ayn Rand Institute can present the following argument:

(1) “integration” is a worthy goal (2) “diversity” is not (3) Texas A&M is correct to abandon

affirmative action as a means to diversity. But what if (4) “de-segregation” was the original intent

of affirmative action at A&M and (5) “de-segregation” has not yet been completed? Then are we not

back to step one above: “integration”? The only thing standing between the Ayn Rand Institute and

the proper conclusion is consideration of a crucial fact: Texas higher education is not yet integrated.

Therefore, integration is the worthy reason why affirmative action should be continued.

The Ayn Rand Institute, like all other eyes of Texas, is looking chiefly at the

framework of “diversity” when the framework of “de-segregation” is more relevant. But the eyes of

Texas have been deliberately led in the direction of “diversity” by the magicians who crafted the

vanishing of affirmative action at Texas A&M.

Curiously enough, the much-watched debate

between campus president Gates and campus conservatives in the weeks leading up to the president’s

announcement served to solifiy an impression that “diversity” was the relevant framework for civil

rights policy at Texas A&M.

Let history reflect that the state’s initial reaction to

the Gates announcement was completely swept into the corner of diversity. No discussion of the

state’s obligations to de-segregation has yet taken place.

See the OpEdge page here.