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.
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.
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.”