Preserving a Racial Hierarchy: A Legal Analysis of the Disparate Racial Impact of Legacy Preferences in University Admissions

Many public and private universities around the country employ legacy admissions preferences in order to give children of alumni special consideration in the admissions process. Such preferences disproportionately benefit white applicants at the cost of their nonwhite counterparts, because past generations of college students were less diverse than today’s applicant pool. However, universities argue that their legacy preferences are justified because they assist in alumni fundraising efforts. This Note presents a statistical analysis to argue that legacy preferences are prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because they have a discriminatory effect on minority college applicants and have not been shown to promote (and do not promote) any legitimate university purpose.