Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Legacy of Evil

If you want to know why legacy preferences in admissions are evil, just read this op-ed trying to defend them by Princeton senior Catherine Rampell in the Chicago Tribune (registration required), defending legacy admissions. It contains the usual arguments about legacies (money, money, money) but then asserts a clear "moral end" to justify it: family. She claims that a university is like a family, and declares: "Suppose your cousin gets into a no-fault traffic accident with a total stranger. Both need one pint of blood, which you, a strapping young thing of more than 110 pounds and high iron levels, can supply to only one person. You would not hesitate to give the blood to your cousin--even if she needs it no more and no less than the otherwise indistinguishable stranger--because she is family." God, I hope she's not a pre-med. First of all, please don't try this at home. It is surprisingly difficult to remove a pint of your own blood and give it to someone, and dangerous to boot.
But more fundamentally, Rampell is wrong. A university is not a family, putting blood ties above merit. Giving special preferences to the elite is not just bad for our society; it is antithetical to the spirit of the university. It's time for universities to act in a moral way. It's time for universities to stand up for merit and fairness, not enrich the overprivileged kids and give them more reason to believe their own arrogant smugness and sense of self-entitlement.

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