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“End College Legacy Preferences”: The Deck Is Stacked At Every Level In Favor Of The Rich

Someone reading about the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action — and by extension similar measures passed by voters in California, Texas, Florida and Washington — might develop the misimpression that affirmative action is on the wane. In fact, it’s alive and well: Public and private colleges routinely give preferential treatment to children of alumni.

If you have kids, or plan on having them someday, you know that acceptance rates at elite colleges are at historic lows. Stanford led the stingy pack, admitting but 5 percent of applicants, with Harvard and Yale trailing close behind at 5.9 percent and 6.3 percent respectively.

For “legacies,” the picture isn’t nearly so bleak. Reviewing admission data from 30 top colleges in the Economics of Education Review, the researcher Michael Hurwitz concluded that children of alumni had a 45 percent greater chance of admission. A Princeton team found the advantage to be worth the equivalent of 160 additional points on an applicant’s SAT, nearly as much as being a star athlete or African-American or Hispanic.

At Harvard, my alma mater, the legacy acceptance rate is 30 percent, which is not an unusual number at elite colleges. That’s roughly five times the overall rate.

The disparity is so great it makes the most sense to conceptualize college applications to elite colleges as two separate competitions: one for children whose parents are legacies, the other for children whose parents aren’t.

Admissions officers will hasten to tell you that in a meritocracy many legacies would get in anyway. Let’s pause to consider the usefulness of the term “meritocracy” in a system where the deck is stacked at every level in favor of rich, white students before conceding the premise. It’s surely true that many children of alumni are brilliant, hard-working and deserving of a seat at a top college. That’s quite different from saying the system is fair. In 2003, Harvard’s admissions dean said that the SAT scores of legacy admits were “just two points below the school’s overall average.” These are students who have enjoyed a lifetime of advantage. We’d expect them to have outperformed nonlegacies, at least by a bit, and yet they’ve done slightly worse.

Reasonable minds can differ on the morality and wisdom of race-based affirmative action. Where I teach, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which is about as egalitarian as institutions come, I’ve seen firsthand what the data show: College is a ticket out of poverty, and exposing young men and women to diverse classmates and role models raises the ceiling on what they believe is possible for themselves. That said, I acknowledge the desire for a colorblind, meritocratic society as an honorable position. But how can anyone defend making an exception for children of alumni?

One needn’t have a dog in this hunt to be troubled by legacy. It’s disastrous public policy. Because of legacy admissions, elite colleges look almost nothing like America. Consider these facts: To be a 1 percenter, a family needs an annual income of approximately $390,000. When the Harvard Crimson surveyed this year’s freshman class, 14 percent of respondents reported annual family income above $500,000. Another 15 percent came from families making more than $250,000 per year. Only 20 percent reported incomes less than $65,000. This is the amount below which Harvard will allow a student to go free of charge. It’s also just above the national median family income. So, at least as many Harvard students come from families in the top 1 percent as the bottom 50 percent. Of course this says nothing of middle-class families, for whom private college is now essentially unaffordable.

These facts will trouble any parent of modest means, but it’s time to recognize this as an American problem. Together with environmental destruction, social inequality is the defining failure of our generation. The richest .01 percent of American families possess 11.1 percent of the national wealth, but 22 percent of American children live in poverty.

There are only two ways this gets better. One is a huge reformation of the tax structure. The other is improved access to higher education. Few investments yield a greater return than a college degree. Education has great potential to combat inequality, but progress simply isn’t possible if legacy persists.

To justify this practice there would need to be, in lawyer language, a compelling justification. There is none. Elite colleges defend legacy as necessary to fund-raising. It isn’t. Neither Oxford nor Cambridge nor M.I.T. considers legacy. Their prestige is intact, they attract great students, and they have ample endowments. Moreover, technology has transformed fund-raising. Presidential candidates raise money through grass-roots campaigns; colleges can, too.

Legacy evolved largely as a doctrine to legitimize the exclusion of Jews from elite schools. It endures today as a mechanism for reinforcing inequality, with particularly harsh consequences for Asians, and fundamentally contradicts the rhetoric of access in which elite colleges routinely engage.

Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton and Columbia collectively have endowments of about $100 billion. They have the means to end this abhorrent practice with a stroke of a pen and the financial resources to endure whatever uncertainty ensues. Just a hunch, but I think the economically diverse students admitted to these great colleges would be successful and generous to their alma maters, not in the hope of securing their child a place in a class, but out of genuine appreciation of a legacy of equal access.

By: Evan J. Mandery, Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Op-Ed Contributor, The New york Times, April 24, 2014

April 26, 2014 Posted by | Affirmative Action, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Campus Carry Movement Stutter-Steps Across America

Last October, an email popped into my inbox from Mike Stollenwerk, co-founder of gun rights networking hub OpenCarry.org, which boasts the motto, “A right un-exercised is a right lost.” He was responding to a question I had about the possible re-tabling of a bill in the Texas legislature which would, if passed, allow students to carry handguns with them to college.

At the time, only Utah allowed the carrying of concealed weapons into the classrooms of public universities, while Colorado left it up to the colleges themselves to decide. Stollenwerk wrote: “My bet is that there are a fair number of college students and faculty members across America who, after the Virginia Tech murders, have decided to regularly carry loaded concealed handguns to class even when it violates college administrative rules … I hope campus carry is legalized in Texas soon.”

But faculty members weren’t as keen on their students packing heat during their lessons as Stollenwerk thought they might be. Last month, just as state senators were ready to send a bill to allow handguns on campus to a final vote, University of Texas (UT) Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa wrote a public letter to legislators saying the gun bill was a bad idea. And he had the public support of both the UT Faculty Counsel and Texas A&M University Faculty Senate. The result: the bill stalled in the Texas senate, lacking the two-thirds of votes needed to get it on to the floor.

But Sen. Jeff Wentworth, the Texas Republican who authored the bill, was persistent, and yesterday he managed to get it tacked on to a piece of education finance reform legislation which passed the state senate.

If the bill in Texas becomes law, some professors there have said they plan to include a clause in syllabi stipulating that students are not be permitted to carry guns into their classroom — and then simply refuse to teach classes where students don’t assent.

Campus-carry legislation was also on the move this spring in Arizona. Three weeks ago, the state’s conservative governor Jan Brewer vetoed a gun rights bill that had already made its way successfully through both houses, saying it was “poorly written” and that allowing guns to be carried in ‘public rights of way’ could have included K-12 schools — something prohibited under state and federal law.

But the hiccup in Arizona hasn’t stopped the movement to allow guns on campus gather momentum elsewhere. This year alone an astonishing 20 states have seen ‘guns on campus’ bills introduced (so far seven have failed).

The non-profit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence points out that since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, campus-carry legislation has been stymied 51 times in 27 states. But they shouldn’t sit back and breathe a sigh of relief just yet. In Arizona, Brewer has signaled that she’d consider future campus-carry legislation if it addressed her concerns.

The gun rights lobby is powerful — and persistent. And here’s a peculiar anomaly: that movement seems emboldened by the perception that President Obama is a “committed anti-gunner,” as the Gun Owners of America organization said during his initial run for president. This perceptions persists despite the fact that the Brady Campaign issued a report card last year failing him on all of the issues it considered important — including closing gun show loopholes and curbing trafficking.

In fact, since taking office, Obama has signed a law permitting guns to be taken into national parks and wildlife refuges and another allowing people to check guns as baggage on Amtrak. During a campaign speech in Virginia back in 2008 he declared: “I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I won’t take your handgun away.” If anything, until now the Obama administration’s hands-off attitude toward gun control has paved the way for the campus-carry movement to flourish, while the misperception that he wants to take people’s guns away has been used as an effective tool to bolster support for Second Amendment groups.

The Brady Campaign’s Brian Malte told me that since his organization issued Obama an “F” on his report card for his first year in office, the president has made some steps in the right direction: a few weeks ago he wrote an op-ed piece for the Arizona Star newspaper in which he emphasized the need for failsafe background checks for gun owners. “An unbalanced man shouldn’t be able to buy a gun so easily,” he wrote. And he nominated Andrew Traver to head up the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — a man who has been outspoken on gangs and weapon control, and whose nomination the NRA opposes.

But none of this is likely to have any effect on the lobby to push campus-carry legislation at the state level. And I don’t like the idea of anyone carrying a gun in public, let alone a 21-year-old student fueled by testosterone and alcohol. When I was at university in the mid-’90s, we drank far more than was good for us. Add guns to the mix and it’s a volatile concoction. When you think of it like that: giving guns to young students largely interested in sex and booze, I’d wager it seems less of a genius idea.

Angela Stroud, a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, has spent the last two years researching the social meanings of concealed handgun licensing. She’s conducted over 40 interviews and even took the handgun license test herself so she’d be more informed. She told me there are those opposed to guns who consider ‘what’s best for society’, and those who are pro-second amendment for whom the ‘greater good’ does not form part of their argument. “There is a major privileging of the individual,” she said. “And it’s a powerful experience to become enmeshed in this worldview. There’s a fear. Instead of saying that incidents like Virginia Tech rarely happen, they say that even a one-in-a-million chance of being murdered is a frightening thing. They see two major threats — one is a criminal who wants to kill you; the other is a government that wants to control you.”

For me, the argument that you could prevent another Virginia Tech with more guns is fatuous. Guns are designed for one thing only — and the more of them there are, the greater the chance of someone getting hurt. Texas Senator Rodney Ellis issued a statement saying the bill would do nothing to improve the safety of students on campus in his state and could, in fact, make dangerous situations more deadly by creating confusion for law enforcement. “We don’t need to incentivize campus Rambos,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

By: Alex Hannaford, The Atlantic, May 5, 2011

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, GOP, Guns, Ideology, Lawmakers, National Rifle Association, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

School of Glock-Get Your Graduate Degree Here

It’s been nearly nine weeks since that tragic shooting in Tucson, and you may be wondering whether there’s been any gun legislation proposed in the aftermath.

Well, in Florida, a state representative has introduced a bill that would impose fines of up to $5 million on any doctor who asks a patient whether he or she owns a gun. This is certainly a new and interesting concept, but I don’t think we can classify it as a response to Tucson. Jason Brodeur, the Republican who thought it up, says it’s a response to the health care reform act.

A sizable chunk of this country seems to feel as though there is nothing so secure that it can’t be endangered by Obamacare. It’s only a matter of time before somebody discovers that giving everyone access to health insurance poses a terrible threat to the armed forces, or the soybean crop, or poodles.

Brodeur’s is one of many, many gun bills floating around state legislatures these days. Virtually all of them seem to be based on the proposition that one of the really big problems we have in this country is a lack of weaponry. His nightmare scenario is that thanks to the “overreaching federal government,” insurance companies would learn who has guns from the doctors and use the information to raise the owners’ rates.

However, it turns out that the health care law has a provision that specifically prohibits insurers from reducing any coverage or benefits because of gun ownership. A St. Petersburg Times reporter, Aaron Sharockman, looked this up. I had no idea, did you? Apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid himself stuck this in to make the gun-lobby folks happy.

Which they really aren’t. The gun lobby will never be happy, unless the health care law specifically requires every American to have a pistol on his or her person at all times.

Great idea! thought State Representative Hal Wick of South Dakota, who tossed in a bill this year requiring every adult citizen to purchase a gun. Actually, even Wick admitted this one wasn’t going anywhere. It was mainly a symbolic protest against the you-know-what law.

Actual responses to the Tucson shooting — that is, something that might actually stop similar tragedies in the future or reduce the carnage — seem to be limited to a proposal in Congress to ban the sale of the kind of ammunition clip that allowed the gunman to fire 31 shots in 15 seconds. That bill is stalled at the gate. Perhaps Congress has been too busy repeatedly voting on bills to repeal the health care law to think about anything else. But, so far, the gun-clip ban has zero Republican supporters, which is a problem given the matter of the Republicans being in the House majority.

Meanwhile in the states, legislation to get more guns in more places (public libraries, college campuses) is getting a more enthusiastic reception.

The nation’s state legislators seem to be troubled by a shortage of things they can do to make the National Rifle Association happy. Once you’ve voted to allow people to carry guns into bars (Georgia), eliminated the need for getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon (Arizona) and designated your own official state gun (Utah — awaiting the governor’s signature), it gets hard to come up with new ideas.

This may be why so many states are now considering laws that would prohibit colleges and universities from barring guns on campus.

“It’s about people having the right to personal protection,” said Daniel Crocker, the southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

Concealed Carry on Campus is a national organization of students dedicated to opening up schools to more weaponry. Every spring it holds a national Empty Holster Protest “symbolizing that disarming all law-abiding citizens creates defense-free zones, which are attractive targets for criminals.”

And you thought the youth of America had lost its idealism. Hang your head.

The core of the great national gun divide comes down to this: On one side, people’s sense of public safety goes up as the number of guns goes down; the other side responds to every gun tragedy by reflecting that this might have been averted if only more legally armed citizens had been on the scene.

I am on the first side simply because I believe that in a time of crisis, there is no such thing as a good shot.

“Police, on average, for every 10 rounds fired, I think, actually strike something once or twice, and they are highly trained,” said Bill Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner.

Concealed Carry on Campus envisions a female student being saved from an armed assailant by a freshman with a concealed weapon permit. I see a well-intentioned kid with a pistol trying to intervene in a scary situation and accidentally shooting the victim.

And, somehow, it’ll all turn out to be the health care reform law’s fault.

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 9, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Guns, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, National Rifle Association, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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