February 16, 2004

Racial preferences more harmful than legacy policies in college admissions

Jonah Goldberg on racial preferences and legacy policies:

Now, personally, I don't care very much if schools drop their legacy policies. But let's be honest about what's really going on here and what isn't.

First of all, the ones who benefit most from legacy policies are the schools and the other non-rich students. The parents of legacies tend to be the biggest financial supporters of schools. If, all of the sudden, these boosters can't get their kids accepted, a major revenue stream will dry up or at least shrink. Millionaires, after all, are less likely to build libraries for schools that reject their kids. That means tuition will go up, disproportionately hurting poor and minority kids.


Moreover, the logic supporting the anti-legacy case simply makes no sense. Most people mock the rich kids who get daddy's help. If legacy preferences are bad, how does that make preferences for blacks good? You can't defend one bad policy by pointing out that there are other similarly bad policies.

Besides, and this is what we should remember during Black History Month, the two policies really aren't that similar. Race is different. America fought a Civil War largely over race. The civil rights movement, which we hear so much about this month and every other month, was morally compelling precisely because it said we should judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin.

If schools want to have preferences for short people, gays or nerds that may be good or bad policy, but it's not "institutional racism." Assigning points based upon skin color is. At least in my book.