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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Legacy admissions aren’t merit-based

 
 

It might seem odd that support for Texas A&M President Robert M. Gates’ decision to end legacy admissions would come from a conservative, considering the driving force behind Gates’ quick end to the program was the whining of liberal legislators. The truth is, there are three sides to the debate over legacy admissions programs, but only two have the best interests of A&M in mind. Gates should be applauded for taking a stand for merit-based admissions, but stopping now in the pursuit of justice would be a mistake. There is another group in the debate that is disingenuous and could win if Aggies are too short-sighted – those seeking to do away with legacy admissions to foster affirmative action.
The supporters of the legacy program have a good point. What loyal Aggie doesn’t want his children, grandchildren or other family members to go to A&M as well? There is something special about knowing that your son or daughter will walk the same halls, participate in the same traditions, cheer for the same team and receive the same quality education that you did. To a lot of Aggies, the best reason to give to A&M is that it’s an investment in their child’s education. And for 15 years, that was a reason for A&M to give back – up to four points toward admission – to the children of former students seeking entry into A&M.
However, it is wrong to discriminate against students for something that they have no power over, such as whether they were born into an Aggie family or not. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled to allow race in admissions, A&M must take the high road of meritocracy to avoid falling into the trap of affirmative action.
Proponents of merit-based admissions have welcomed the end of the legacy policy. Aggies should remember that the deciding factor determining why a legacy student is here may only be because someone else in his family tree was a first-generation Aggie. Considering that prior to 1989, legacies did not receive extra consideration, numerous legacies were the result of strong personal merit only.
“A&M’s decision is good news for those of us who believe in merit-based university admissions,” said Edward Blum, a senior fellow with the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes affirmative action.
However, those seeking the end of legacy admissions were not the supporters of merit-based admissions, but quite the opposite.
Gates’ announcement followed quickly on the heels of a barrage of attacks by affirmative action proponents in the Texas Legislature, calling the legacy program racist. This assertion is only a ploy for those upset that A&M has not returned to race-conscious admissions. As former A&M President Ray Bowen told The Associated Press, his administration determined that ending the legacy program would have lowered the number of minorities gaining entrance into A&M. The research just doesn’t support the assertion that the legacy program significantly changed the demographics for A&M. But for those who make their living playing the race card, it was easier to point a finger at the legacy program and demand a return to affirmative action than to address the failing K-through-12th-grade education system that has ill-prepared generations of minorities. Don’t expect the proponents of affirmative action to be touting school vouchers or reform of the Texas Education Agency any time soon.
Now that legacy no longer plays a role in the admissions process, there is an even greater wrong that must be corrected. Currently, applicants can gain up to six points toward admissions if their parents did not attend college or complete high school. According to Frank Ashley, A&M’s acting assistant provost for enrollment, the four points for legacy admissions helped offset the six for lack of parental academic achievement. Now, however, the six-point policy actually places legacy students at a direct disadvantage compared to their peers, as applicants who receive their legacy status from their parents are not eligible for the program. Just as points for parental success are not merit-based, neither are points for the opposite.
Despite pressure from affirmative action proponents, race-based admissions must never return to A&M. Point systems that put the children of former students at a distinct advantage must go. While Gates has taken a bold step in the direction of merit-based admissions that places A&M on the moral high ground, this has to be only the beginning of changes to come.
-Matthew Maddox is a senior management major.

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