Why It Matters: Opposition to legacy admissions has grown.
After the Supreme Court decision, legacy admissions came under heavy attack because the practice tends to favor white, wealthy applicants over black, Hispanic, Asian-American and Native American students.
President Joe Biden; Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York; and Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, all expressed against the practice.
Surveys also show that the public does not support heritage admissions. A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 75 percent of those surveyed believed heritage status should not be a factor in college admissions.
A number of highly selective universities and colleges have dropped legacy admissions, including Amherst, Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon and MIT.
But most are reluctant to give up the practice, arguing that it helps build a strong intergenerational community and encourages donations that can be used for financial aid.
Background: Lega status has become “a sign of injustice to the outside world.”
The decision of Wesleyan, which has about 3,200 students, could be easier than for other colleges, such as Harvard or Yale, which have a higher share of heritage admitted.
Academic status played a “negligible role” in admissions, Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan’s president, said in an interview. But, he added, the practice has become a distraction and “a sign of injustice to the outside world.”
Mr. Roth said he did not know exactly how many past Wesleyan students were helped by legacy status. An applicant’s family connections could, for example, be used as equity or to help narrow down a pool. They won’t anymore.
He said he wants to focus the conversation on improving diversity, including recruiting more veterans and students from rural areas, and avoid a discussion about “the embarrassing fact, actually, that you got a leg up because of your parent or grandparent.”
Mr. Roth said he believes most alumni, though not all, will agree that legacy admissions are no longer appropriate.
“I bet, I guess,” he said, with some uncertainty, “that Wesleyan alumni will be proud of it, and they want it to be a place that doesn’t give unearned privileges to applicants.”
What’s Next: Groups challenge legacy admissions at other colleges.
The future of legacy admissions on campuses is uncertain.
After the Supreme Court decision, President Biden said he would ask the Education Department to examine “practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity.” And Lawyers for Civil Rights, a legal advocacy group, filed a complaint with the department, asking for a review of legacy admissions, as well as admissions preferences for relatives of donors, at Harvard.
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the group’s executive director, said in an interview that he expected more colleges to make similar decisions in the coming months, ahead of the next admissions cycle.
“Institutions will reconsider their practices only as a matter of basic fairness,” he said.