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Something worth repeating

February 9, 2024

This piece represents the opinion of the Bowdoin Orient Editorial Board.

This week last year, our Editorial Board felt it pressing, in the week following Bowdoin’s announcement of a record number of applications received, to urge the College to end its practice of preferencing legacy status in the admissions process. Following this year’s admissions news, we again call upon the College to end legacy admissions.

The function of the Editorial Board is both to offer commentary on contemporary campus goings-on and to serve as a historical archive recording the views of our staff. Expressing our opposition to legacy admissions a second time serves both purposes. The need for an end to legacy admissions remains a prominent campus discussion and one on which we continue to feel strongly. We hold this stance particularly firmly in the wake of this year’s even more competitive admissions cycle and the Supreme Court’s ruling making affirmative action unconstitutional.

A number of the points brought up in last year’s Editorial Board bear repeating. The practice of legacy admissions is one designed to give preference wealthy, white, Protestant applicants. This is a particularly illogical practice for a College that has long been a leader in admissions equity. Bowdoin was the first school to eliminate the requirement that applicants provide standardized test scores in 1969, long before a move away from standardized testing became the national trend. Even as some schools shift back toward requiring standardized testing (such as Dartmouth College in a policy announced on Monday), Bowdoin remains a steadfast leader in equity on the issue of testing. Additionally, Bowdoin is one of about 50 colleges that run fly-in programs for low-income or first-gen applicants to visit the College, all expenses paid.

More colleges are taking action to ensure diverse student bodies after the Supreme Court held affirmative action to be unconstitutional in last summer’s Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard ruling. Bowdoin has aimed to work toward continued equity after the end of affirmative actions by introducing an essay titled “Navigating Difference,” which asks students to share any information about their background that has not otherwise been noted. Institutions such as Northwestern, Rice, Princeton and the University of Maryland have begun offering similar, additional supplemental essays. This move is in line with a holistic admissions process that can admit a body of students from diverse socioeconomic, geographic and racial backgrounds.

This essay is a strong beginning in reckoning with a lack of diversity in higher education. But the challenges posed by the affirmative action ruling make it ever more important to recognize the problem with legacy admissions.

Wesleyan University and the University of Minnesota are two such institutions that have taken the Supreme Court ruling as a wake-up call to move away from legacy admissions. These institutions are making an effort to ensure their admissions processes remain holistic and fair. Wesleyan University and the University of Minnesota joined a number of institutions that ended legacy admissions far before the Court’s decision, including Amherst, Pomona, MIT and Johns Hopkins. Bowdoin should not be any different.

As admission to Bowdoin becomes more and more competitive, any preferential treatment represents an even more unfair advantage. Bowdoin received a record-breaking 13,200 applications for the Class of 2028, up by 20 percent from last year. Early Decision rounds had a 13.2 percent acceptance rate, and the Regular Decision acceptance rate is expected to be much lower.

Each year, earning acceptance into Bowdoin is more difficult than the last. But, each year, one thing stays the same—legacies are still shown a preference.

Keeping such a policy goes against what it means to practice holistic admissions: to recognize privilege and respond accordingly to it. It goes against the College’s goal of providing a progressive, fair and equitable admissions process. It is therefore worth repeating: end legacy admissions.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board, which is composed of Lily Echeverria, Abdullah Hashimi, Kristen Kinzler, Talia Traskos-Hart, Sam Pausman and Juliana Vandermark.




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