Down With Legacies

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President Bush has revealed that his opposition to what's commonly called affirmative action (but not what he calls affirmative action, which is simply seeking out more candidates from unrepresented groups) is firmly consistent. One fallacious argument against removing affirmative action is that people are given a boost in admissions processes if they have family members who attended the institution. (It's fallacious because the existence of one practice you don't agree with doesn't necessarily mean another one is ok. If they're both wrong for the same reasons, then the existence of legacy admissions doesn't mean we should retain affirmative action. It might simply mean getting rid of both.)

Now I think it's in a university's best interests to consider this sort of factor, as much as it is to consider someone's soccer or French horn abilities. I think some occasions of considering race are a good idea. But Bush's view on these matters is merit only, and that requires getting rid of legacies. It's nice to see that he's saying that publicly. Anyone who takes his stance on race preferences should, to be fair, give reasons why legacy preferences are ok if they aren't also going to oppose both. He's taken the more straightforward approach in opposing both. Of course, this won't be publicized much. So far the only place I've seen it is at Jon Mandle's post at Crooked Timber three days after the CNN story and two days ago.

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This is the twenty-sixth edition of the weekly Carnival of the Bush Bloggers. Here is what some Bush bloggers are writing about on their own sites: The Galvin Opinion says that Republicans need to be more aggressive in confronting... Read More

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It's good that Bush is consistent in words. But he opposed affirmative action is deeds as well as words. (This, for instance, from the CBS story, Jan. 16, 2003: Mr. Bush denounced the Michigan policy as "fundamentally flawed" and unconstitutional. The program "amounts to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students solely on their race," Mr. Bush said in announcing that his administration would file a legal brief in the case with the Supreme Court on Thursday.)

Let's hope President Bush is consistent in action as well as in words.

I should add, in fairness, that there are perhaps legal/political reasons why analogous actions can't be taken against legacy policies. I'm not necessarily looking for the same actions from the Bush admin., just the same willingness to act (in whatever way is most effective). Otherwise, the words may turn out to be about as meaningful as "no child left behind" turned out to be.

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