Wesleyan University ends legacy admissions following affirmative action ruling


(MIDDLETOWN, Conn.) — New England liberal arts college Wesleyan University has ended legacy admissions in the wake of the Supreme Court striking down race-based affirmative action.

In a statement released Wednesday, University President Michael S. Roth addressed the importance of formally ending admission preference for “legacy applicants.”

“We still value the ongoing relationships that come from multi-generational Wesleyan attendance, but there will be no ‘bump’ in the selection process,” Roth’s statement read.

His statement continued: “As has been almost always the case for a long time, family members of alumni will be admitted on their own merits.”

Legacy admissions played a “negligible role” in the school’s admission process because being related to an alumnus indicated “little about that applicant’s ability to succeed” at the school, according to a press release from Wesleyan. But, the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action led to Wesleyan’s move.

Out of 2,280 students admitted for the class of 2027, only 4% had a parent who attended Wesleyan, according to the school. For the classes of 2022 to 2026 that figure hovered between 7% and 8%.

Last month, the high court decided that Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action admissions programs violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, impacting colleges nationwide.

The court’s decision undercuts more than four decades of legal precedent and is a blow to schools that say race-conscious admissions programs are vital to building a diverse student body.

Following the court’s affirmative action ruling, the admissions process for colleges and universities came further under scrutiny, particularly regarding legacy admissions.

Earlier this month, in a federal civil rights complaint against Harvard College, various civil rights and advocacy groups, including the Chica Project and Lawyers for Civil Rights, called on the Education Department to launch a federal investigation into the school’s practices surrounding legacy and donor preferences that disproportionately favor white students.

“Harvard’s practice of giving a leg-up to the children of wealthy donors and alumni – who have done nothing to deserve it – must end,” Michael Kippins, a fellow at Lawyers for Civil Rights, said in a statement to ABC News at the time. “Particularly in light of last week’s decision from the Supreme Court, it is imperative that the federal government act now to eliminate this unfair barrier that systematically disadvantages students of color.”

Nearly half of Harvard’s white students were recruited athletes, related to alumni, children of faculty and staff, or were “of special importance to the dean of admissions,” according to a 2019 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Less than 16% of African American, Asian American and Hispanic students at Harvard fall into these categories, according to the study.

Wesleyan University is the first university to end legacy admissions since the high court’s ruling.

Amherst College in Massachusetts ended legacy admissions in 2021, with then-school president Biddy Martin saying at the time, “Now is the time to end this historic program that inadvertently limits educational opportunity by granting a preference to those whose parents are graduates of the College. We want to create as much opportunity for as many academically talented young people as possible, regardless of financial background or legacy status.”

ABC News’ Kiara Alfonseca, Devin Dwyer and Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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