Harvard University’s use of legacy admissions is under investigation by the Education Department following a complaint from advocacy groups. The complaint, filed earlier this month by Lawyers for Civil Rights and other groups, alleges that the practice violates federal civil rights law.
In response to the complaint, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights confirmed on Tuesday that it is probing Harvard for possible violations of Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act. However, the department declined to provide further comments, stating their policy of not discussing ongoing investigations.
The complaint argues that legacy admissions at Harvard put applicants of color at a disadvantage and contradict the university’s commitment to diversity on campus. It asserts that legacy admissions should be discontinued, especially after the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action programs that considered race in admissions.
The advocacy groups have called on the Education Department to require Harvard to end the practice if it wishes to continue receiving federal funds. They argue that legacy admissions are not justified by educational necessity and provide preferential treatment based solely on family ties, regardless of an applicant’s credentials or merits.
Harvard, in response to the allegations and the federal investigation, stated that it is conducting a comprehensive review of its admissions policies in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling. The university reaffirmed its commitment to providing opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to apply for admission.
Legacy admissions at Harvard, along with other universities, have been increasingly scrutinized since the Supreme Court’s ruling. President Joe Biden criticized legacy admissions, saying they “expand privilege instead of opportunity,” and the NAACP also called for an end to the practice, citing unfair advantages for white applicants.
The complaint cites data released by Harvard after the Supreme Court’s ruling, revealing that 70% of legacy applicants are white, and they are six times more likely to be admitted compared to non-legacy applicants. The complaint contends that removing legacy and donor preferences would result in more students of color being admitted to Harvard.
As the investigation continues, stakeholders are closely monitoring the situation, and Harvard is committed to fostering a fair and inclusive admissions process while addressing concerns raised by the complaint.