Activists challenge inheritance enrollments at Harvard

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A civil rights group is challenging inheritance admissions at Harvard University, alleging that the practice discriminates against students of color by giving an unfair advantage to the mostly white children of alumni.

The practice of prioritizing the children of alumni has faced growing opposition after the Supreme Court ruled last week that affirmative action, a government policy to guarantee equal opportunity to all without prejudice, can no longer be applied to higher education. distinction of race, sex, age, religion or sexual orientation. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) intervened Monday, calling on more than 1,000 colleges to be fair on admissions and end enrollment by inheritance.

Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston-based nonprofit, filed the civil rights complaint Monday on behalf of groups in the New England black and Hispanic communities, arguing that Harvard's admissions system violates the Civil Rights Act. Civil rights.

"Why are we rewarding children for the privileges and advantages acquired by previous generations?" asked Iván Espinoza Madrigal, executive director of the group. "One's family name and the size of one's bank account are not a measure of merit, and should not carry weight in the college admissions process."

Opponents say the practice is no longer defensible without the counterweight of affirmative action. The top court's ruling says universities must ignore the race of applicants, activists say, but schools can still give preference to the children of alumni and donors.

The complaint, filed with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, is based on Harvard data that came to light in the midst of the affirmative action case that went to the Supreme Court. Records revealed that 70% of applicants related to donors or alumni are white, and that being the child of an alumni increases an applicant's chance of being accepted by up to six times.

The complaint points to other universities that have dropped the practice over questions about their fairness, such as Amherst and Johns Hopkins.

The lawsuit argues that Harvard's preference for the children of alumni is in no way related to merit and takes places away from eligible students of color. It asks the Department of Education to outlaw the practice and force Harvard to abandon it as long as the university continues to receive federal funding.

"A place awarded to an applicant related to alumni or donors is a place that is no longer available to an applicant who meets the admission criteria based solely on their own merit," the complaint states. If preferences for donors and children of alumni are withdrawn, he adds, "more students of color would be admitted to Harvard."

Harvard said it would not comment on the complaint.

“Last week, the university reaffirmed its commitment to the founding principle that deep and transformative teaching, learning, and research depend on a community made up of people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences,” the institution said in a statement. . "As we said, in the coming weeks and months, the university will determine how to preserve our core values, consistent with the new court precedent."

The complaint was filed on behalf of the Chica Project, the African Community Economic Development of New England and the Greater Boston Latino Network.

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