According to conservatives, affirmative action haters and the official position of the Trump administration, race-conscious college admission policies unfairly discriminate against more-qualified students (pronounced “hoo-wyatt pee-pole”). Even though college entrance exams have been shown to favor students from richer, better-educated families; in spite of the fact that the SAT was literally created to weed out non-white males and that white school districts are better-funded than non-white school districts, the advocates for the mythical standard of “merit-based” admissions policies insist that grades and standardized tests should be the only metrics used for college admission.
Unless, of course, you are white.
A recently-published working paper by economists at Duke University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia parsed through the admissions data at one of America’s leading universities and found that Harvard University’s affirmative action policies don’t have shit on the secret side-entrance the school built for athletes, children of wealthy donors and applicants whose parents attended the prestigious institution.
Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard is a study by Peter Arcidiancono, Tyler Ransom and Josh Kinsler, who published the study in the National Bureau of Economic Research’s “Working Paper” series. Arcidiacono is serving as an expert witness in the landmark Harvard v. Students for Fair Admission, which alleges that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies discriminate against Asian Americans. On Tuesday, a federal judge rejected that argument, ruling that the colleges and universities had the right to use admissions to compose racially diverse student bodies.
The case was backed by Edward Blum, a 67-year-old right-wing activist whose mission is to eradicate racial preferences. Blum is known for financing controversial court cases that challenge white oppression such as Fisher v. The University of Texas, which alleged that affirmative action prevented a mediocre white woman from getting into UT (he lost). Blum is also the man behind Shelby v. Holder, which gutted the Voting Rights Act.
The researchers used court depositions that describe Harvard’s admissions process, documents from the University’s admissions office and publicly-available data from the school. They focused ALDCs, or students who came from four groups.
- Athletes: Harvard doesn’t offer athletic scholarships but they do recruit athletes and most of Harvard’s athletes are white. And it’s not just the school’s rowboat team; even the football team is majority-white. (No, I’m not going to refer to rowboat pedaling as “crew.” Every crew I’ve ever seen could dance on-beat.)
- Legacies: Students whose parents or family members attended Harvard, an alumni base that is overwhelmingly white. (How do you think George W. Bush got in?)
- Deans’ Interest Lists: These are applicants are “of special importance to the dean of admissions,” particularly “applicants whose parents have donated to Harvard, and applicants whose relatives have donated to Harvard.”
- Children of Staff and Faculty: This needs no explanation except to say that the school proudly boasts that 40 percent of the school’s tenure track faculty and 60 percent of the tenured faculty are women or underrepresented minorities, which seems great...Until you take out white women and realize that tenured faculty is 81 percent white while the tenure-track faculty is 66 percent white. Oh, white women…You almost got me.
Explaining that “Harvard epitomizes the competitive nature of elite college admissions,” the report notes that only 4.5 percent of applicants were admitted to Harvard’s class of 2023. Although the school is very exclusive, the researchers pointed out that the school’s policies and demographics are “similar to other Ivy League and highly selective institutions.”
The discoveries were astonishing in the same way one is surprised to find out how hot fire really is. Researchers found that recruited athletes were 14 times more likely to be admitted than regular students, while legacy students were 5.7 times more likely to get into Harvard than the average applicant. Children of Harvard employees and people whose parents gave large sums to the institution got in at ten times the rate of most students.
But there were some surprises, one of which is the way that whites benefit from athletic preferences. According to the data, more white people got into Harvard through athletics than all other races using all of the ALDC privileges of entry combined. The analysis also showed that 43 percent—two out of every five white people at Harvard—gained entry to Harvard through one of these special considerations. For comparison, 16 percent of Harvard’s non-white students were able to take advantage of these loopholes. According to the study, if Harvard removed these preferences, the student body would eventually become less white and there wouldn’t be as many high-income students on campus.
The study also revealed that none of these loopholes really applied to black students. It didn’t matter if they were disadvantaged, athletes, legacies, first-generation college students or needed financial aid—black students had lower admission rates in every single category, even when the researchers adjusted for grades and academic achievements. The top and bottom line is that white students benefit from these admission policies more than any other racial group.
Here is the stunning part: When the study examined the students by race, LDC (legacy, dean exception, and children of employees) status and academic achievement, contrary to popular belief, the data showed that only the most excellent, academically-prepared black students are admitted to Harvard. Most of the black students at Harvard come from the top third of their group of applicants, while literally the least-qualified, worst-performing but rich and well-connected white kids are accepted into Harvard at a rate (6.32 percent) that is higher than the school’s overall acceptance rate.
So much for “merit.”
If you believed the popular narrative, you would think that a bunch of underqualified, shiftless negroes are preventing the best and brightest white students from gaining entry into one of the country’s most elite educational institutions. But that is a lie. The truth is that, in spite of underfunded black schools, prejudicial tests, implicitly biased interviews and an entire system built to disadvantage African Americans, black students are not “taking advantage of the system.” A black person who succeeds must work twice as hard as the hardest-working white person because America’s foundation rests on the most affirmative action of all: