Courtesy of Sofia Da Silva '18

Rigo Perez '17 participated in a photo shoot during First-Gen Week in 2016.

February 15, 2018

First Generation Student Union Calls On Cornell to Review Legacy Admissions Practice

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The First Generation Student Union signed a letter released on Wednesday asking Cornell and other universities to reconsider the role of legacy status in admissions decisions.

The EdMobilizer Coalition, composed of FGSU, the Princeton Hidden Minority Council and 11 other organizations at various elite universities, issued a letter that asks universities to “re-evaluate the purpose” that legacy preferences have in college admissions. The coalition is also asking the universities to make committees that can study this issue.

According to Cornell’s Class of 2021 profile, 16.5 percent of the Class of 2021 are children and grandchildren of Cornell alumni, compared to 13 percent of the Princeton University’s Class of 2021 who are alumni children and 11.9 percent of Yale University’s Class of 2021 who have a “legacy affiliation,” according to their respective admissions departments.

“As a matter of transparency, we are specifically asking our universities to make all internally written admissions policies and data about legacy treatment public and to charge a joint committee of students, alumni and administrators to re-evaluate its use,” the letter stated.

Mayra Valadez ’18, president of FGSU and director of university partnerships for EdMobilizer, said the letter is asking for the universities involved to consider “the fairness” of legacy admissions policy.

“As research shows, this policy is essentially affirmative action for the rich and for the white,” Valadez said.

The coalition strongly rebuked the claim that legacy students are necessary to ensure universities receive sufficient donations from alumni.

“What research shows is that there is no correlation between legacy admissions policies and a University’s donations from alums,” Valadez said. “But what it does suggest it that this is essentially an easier way for wealthier students to gain admission.”

Katie Forkey ’19, whose parents attended Cornell as undergraduates, discussed some of the arguments for why legacy status is considered in admissions.

“They bring something to the campus that’s unique because they have a special connection to the school,” Forkey said.

She also talked about how legacy status may indicate whether or not an admitted student will choose come to Cornell.

“From the admissions officer’s perspective, they’re looking to admit people who are actually going to come if they’re admitted,” she said. “And I think having a legacy status gives you a way of showing the school, ‘I’m really interested in you. I have connection to you and I really do want to come here.’”

The University said they do not currently have a comment on the letter.

Valadez said she hopes this movement looking at legacy admissions spreads to more universities.

“Although this letter only has 12 universities currently signed on, we hope that in the coming days and weeks, we get a lot more interest from other universities that we don’t currently have connections to,” she said.