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Education Department investigating Harvard’s legacy admission policies

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(WASHINGTON) — Harvard University’s practice of legacy admissions is being probed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a spokesperson for the agency told ABC News.


The investigation comes a month following the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision on Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard that struck down race-based affirmative action for colleges and universities.

Lawyers for Civil Rights filed the complaint against Harvard earlier this month contending that preferential treatment is given to children of wealthy donors and alumni.

“Nearly 70% of Harvard’s donor-related and legacy applicants are white, and they receive a substantial boost based on their status. Donor-related applicants are nearly 7 times more likely to be admitted than non-donor-related applicants, and legacies are nearly 6 times more likely to be admitted,” the complaint alleged.

Lawyers for Civil Rights further contended 28% of Harvard’s 2019 graduating class were legacies.

“Qualified and highly deserving applicants of color are harmed as a result, as admissions slots are given instead to the overwhelmingly white applicants who benefit from Harvard’s legacy and donor preferences,” according to the complaint.

The Department of Education declined to give more information about their investigation but said it involved Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.

Nicole Rura, a spokeswoman for Harvard, said in a statement that the school is reviewing “aspects” of its admissions policies following the Supreme Court decision.

“Our review includes examination of a range of data and information, along with learnings from Harvard’s efforts over the past decade to strengthen our ability to attract and support a diverse intellectual community that is fundamental to our pursuit of academic excellence,” she said in a statement.

Rura added that the school’s administration is “redoubling our efforts to encourage students from many different backgrounds to apply for admission.”

Last week, Wesleyan University’s president announced that he would be ending legacy admissions for the school.

“In the wake of this [Supreme Court] decision where the court said you can’t use the affiliation of an applicant with a racial group. Well, I don’t think you should be able to use it with affiliation with your alumni group,” Wesleyan University President Michael Roth told ABC News’ “Start Here.”

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