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更新时间:2018-10-30 16:11:32 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Liberal Hypocrisy in College Admissions?

We progressives hail opportunity, egalitarianism and diversity. Yet here’s our dirty little secret: Some of our most liberal bastions in America rely on a system of inherited privilege that benefits rich whites at the expense of almost everyone else.


I’m talking about “legacy preferences” that elite universities give to children of graduates. These universities constitute some of the world’s greatest public goods, but they rig admissions to favor applicants who already have had every privilege in life.


A lawsuit against Harvard University has put a focus on admissions policies that the plaintiffs argue hurt Asian-American applicants. I disagree with the suit, seeing it as a false flag operation that aims to dismantle affirmative action for black and Latino students.


But the suit has shone a light on a genuine problem: legacy, coupled with preferences for large donors and for faculty children. Most of the best universities in America systematically discriminate in favor of affluent, privileged alumni children. If that isn’t enough to get your kids accepted, donate $5 million to the university, and they’ll get a second look.


“It’s a hereditary principle at work in an area that should be meritocratic,” observed Richard Reeves of the Brookings Institution, who criticized legacy preferences in his book “Dream Hoarders.” Reeves noted the irony that in Europe and most of the rest of the world, there is no such explicit system of legacy preferences, yet in supposedly egalitarian America it is formal and systematic.

布鲁金斯学会(Brookings Institution)的理查德·里夫斯(Richard Reeves)在他的著作《梦想囤积者》(Dream Hoarders)一书中,对照顾校友子女的做法提出了批评。里夫斯指出,具有讽刺意味的是,在欧洲和世界大部分地区,都没有这样对校友子女赤裸裸的照顾做法,但在所谓人人平等的美国,这一体系却是正式的、成系统的存在。

Isn’t it a bit hypocritical that institutions so associated with liberalism should embrace a hereditary aristocratic structure? Ah, never underestimate the power of self-interest to shape people’s views. As Reeves put it dryly: “American liberalism tends to diminish as the issues get closer to home.”


I write this as a beneficiary of affirmative action. I was an Oregon farm boy, and Ivy League schools wanted the occasional country bumpkin, so I milked this for all it was worth by writing a college essay about me vaccinating sheep, picking strawberries and competing in the Future Farmers of America.

我是作为平权行动的受益者来写这篇文章的。我曾是俄勒冈州的一名农场男孩,常春藤盟校偶尔想录取乡下的土包子,所以我充分利用了这一点,写了一篇关于我给羊接种疫苗、摘草莓,以及参加美国未来农民(Future Farmers of America)竞赛的申请文书。

Harvard wanted hicks from the sticks, so it chose me to help diversify its freshman class — and then Harvard had a huge impact on me. I’m also proud to have served some years ago on Harvard’s board and to have been a visiting fellow at its Kennedy School of Government.

哈佛想用来自田间的乡巴佬来帮助一届新生多元化,所以选择了我。后来,哈佛对我的人生有巨大的影响。我也为几年前得以在哈佛大学校董会服务,并在肯尼迪政府学院(Kennedy School of Government)做访问学者感到自豪。

There’s disagreement about how much advantage legacy confers. Material submitted in the trial now underway suggests that over a six-year period, 33.6 percent of legacy children were admitted to Harvard, compared with 5.9 percent of nonlegacy applicants.


Seven years ago, a Harvard doctoral student named Michael Hurwitz used sophisticated statistical techniques and found that having a parent graduate increased the chance of admission at 30 top colleges by 45 percentage points. For example, a candidate who otherwise had a 20 percent shot became a 65 percent prospect with a parent who had graduated from that school.

七年前,哈佛大学一位名叫迈克尔·赫维茨(Michael Hurwitz)的博士生使用复杂的统计方法发现,如果父母之一是美国30所顶尖大学毕业生的话,子女被这些学校录取的机会增加45个百分点。例如,对某所精英大学来说,如果普通申请者的录取率是20%的话,校友子女申请者被录取的概率上升为65%。

Earlier, a 2004 Princeton study estimated that legacy at top schools was worth an additional 160 points on an SAT, out of 1600 points.


Legacy preferences apparently were introduced in America in the early 1900s as a way to keep out Jewish students. To their credit, some American universities, including M.I.T. — not to mention Oxford and Cambridge in Britain — don’t give a legacy preference.


The top universities say that legacy preferences help create a multigenerational community of alumni, and that’s a legitimate argument. They also note that rewarding donors helps encourage donations that can be used to finance scholarships for needy kids.


Yet on balance, I’m troubled that some of America’s greatest institutions grant a transformative opportunity disproportionately to kids already steeped in advantage, from violin lessons to chess tournaments to SAT coaching. On top of that, letting wealthy families pay for extra consideration feels, to use a technical term, yucky.


Liberals object to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing tycoons to buy political influence, so why allow tycoons to buy influence in college admissions?

自由派人士不同意最高法院对“联合公民”(Citizens United)一案做出的允许企业大亨花钱买政治影响的裁决,为什么要允许企业大亨在大学招生上买影响呢?

More broadly, what happened to equal opportunity and meritocracy? They may be ideals rather than reality, but why defend a formal structure of hereditary privilege and monetary advantage in accessing top universities?


“Legacy preferences give a leg up to applicants who have typically led privileged lives,” said Susan Dynarski, a (Harvard-trained) professor of economics, education and public policy at the University of Michigan. “It’s the polar opposite of affirmative action, which boosts applicants who have faced adversity. It’s unconscionable for a handful of elite colleges to amass enormous tax-advantaged endowments and use them to perpetuate privilege in this way.”

“校友子女偏好为一般来说已经过着优越生活的申请者提供了优势,”(哈佛培养的)密歇根大学(University of Michigan)经济学、教育和公共政策教授苏珊·戴纳斯基(Susan Dynarski)说。“这与平权行动背道而驰,平权行动帮助的是那些面临逆境的申请者。少数精英大学积累了大量在税收上有利的捐赠,并利用它们以这种方式来延续特权,这是违背良心的做法。”

The larger problem is that 38 colleges, including five from the Ivy League, had more students from the top 1 percent than from the bottom 60 percent. Over all, children from the top 1 percent are 77 times more likely to attend Ivy League colleges than children from the bottom 20 percent.


When family background already matters so much, do America’s best universities really want to put their thumb on the scales to help already privileged children — or allow their families to make a donation that buys a second thumb to press on the scales?


The student journalists of The Harvard Crimson editorialized: “Legacy preference is, in the simplest terms, wrong. It takes opportunities from those with less and turns them over to those who have more.”

《哈佛深红报》(Harvard Crimson)的学生记者在一篇社论中说:“用最简单的话说,校友子女偏好是错误的做法。这种做法把从拥有更少的人那里拿走的机会,交给那些拥有更多的人。”