True Fact: A recent study of Ivy-Plus colleges (the Ivies plus Stanford, MIT, Duke, and the University of Chicago) found that legacy applicants to those institutions were five times more likely to be admitted than non-legacy applicants with similar qualifications (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 24th online).
Around the country, academics were stunned.
“I’m shocked to my very core!”, remarked a long-time Harvard faculty member upon hearing the news. “Who knew that the six generations of Pewter-Mastersons that attended our school were related?”
“Gadzooks!”, exclaimed Dartmouth President Sian Beilock. “I had been wondering why our student body was so wealthy and white. I just assumed that low-income minority high schoolers were put off by the frigid winters up here in New Hampshire. Of course, our traditional recruitment pitch — ‘Dartmouth: We’ll Freeze Your Ass Off’ — probably doesn’t help.”
At Princeton, Professor Emeritus Noreen Fenderdent recalled that for decades she had been puzzled by the number of male students in her classes who wore bow ties, salmon-colored khakis, and Bass Weejuns with no socks. “Could they have been legacies?”, she asks. “These young men tended to be whitish. Or at least I thought they were. During my career I tried to make it a practice of not seeing color when I looked at people. Okay, maybe sometimes I did.”
If elite schools are forced to curtail legacy admissions, alumni/ae donations could plummet. Indeed, Yale President Peter Salovey warns that such an outcome would lead to reduced funding for student activities at his school: “We’d probably have to eliminate our junior varsity Cribbage team, or at least replace the diamond-encrusted cribbage-board pegs we currently use with cheap plastic ones. And the annual spring trip of the Antique Fountain Pen Club to the Vienna Montblanc Exhibition would, in all likelihood, become an every-other-year event. I won’t lie to you; things could get tough around here.”
Yes, they could.
A decade from now, as Yale-educated hedge-fund managers tuck their children into bed at night, they might find themselves whispering to their little ones, “I may not be able to guarantee you an elite college degree, but I promise: you will have many, many ponies.”