Courts

Sotomayor Praises Affirmative Action and Legacy Admissions, Doesn't Realize Those Things Are Awful

Sotomayor thinks legacy admissions are somehow helping the disadvantaged, when in reality they do the opposite.

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Sonia Sotomayor
Pete Souza / White House

Though the public has steadily turned against affirmative action schemes—and courts continue to limit their use—Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor remains a steadfast defender of race-based college admissions.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Sotomayor offered an interesting glimpse into her mindset on the issue. She maintained that race-based affirmative action was the only reliable way to ensure campus diversity.

Stephanopoulos asked her whether it made more sense for admissions offices to consider regional or economic background instead of race. Her answer was definitive:

Well, the problem with that answer is that it doesn't work. It's not that I don't believe it works, I don't think the statistics show that it works. It just doesn't.

But perhaps more shocking was that she defended affirmative action by likening it to legacy admission—a practice that virtually everyone who knows about it hates (some 75 percent of Americans, according to The New York Times), except Sotomayor, apparently:

Look, we have legacy admissions. If your parents or your grandparents have been to that school, they're going to give you an advantage in getting into the school again. Legacy admission is a wonderful thing because it means even if you're not as qualified as others you're going to get that slight advantage.

Is it "wonderful" that the scions of politically and financially well-connected families get to be judged on their last names, rather than on their academic merit? It seems like Sotomayor thinks legacy admissions are somehow helping the disadvantaged, when in reality they do the opposite.

This isn't abstract, theoretical, or even disputable. In 2009, Princeton accepted 40 percent of applicants whose parents were alumni, according to Inside Higher Ed. That was 4.5 times higher than the rate of admission for non-legacy applicants. People who didn't have famous parents got penalized when they applied to Princeton, plain and simple. That's the system Sotomayor just said was "wonderful."

Why should admittance to elite colleges be inherited like an aristocratic title? And why on earth would a Supreme Court justice whose ostensible concern is fostering diversity and assisting disadvantaged minorities be in favor of such a system?

Foes of inequality who criticize race-based affirmative action should demand the end of legacy admissions with equal fervor. It boggles the mind to think they would have Sotomayor against them in this fight, too.

Read Reason's Shikha Dalmia on why legacy preferences are the "original sin" of admissions policies.

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  1. Legacy admission is a wonderful thing because it means even if you’re not as qualified as others you’re going to get that slight advantage.

    What this tells me is that I need to start smoking a lot more crack if I want to be a Supreme Court justice someday.

    1. You have to be a Wise Latina, not The Worst to get in that way!

      1. I’m already pretty tan this summer.

        1. But it would have to be Senorita Nikki, no?

          1. The Holy Roman^WLatina Empire covered large parts of Germanic-speaking localities.

        2. Is a Wise WOP the same as a Wise Latina?

          I’m also already getting color and the summer hasn’t even started here.

          1. I don’t know, but I much prefer Signorina.

            Yeah it’s the amount of running I’m doing but it’s…it’s horrible. I was swarthy enough to begin with!

            1. The darker I am, the better, as far as I’m concerned. I am able to get WAY too pale in the winter and I hate it.

              1. But that’s when you get to use your full white male privilege!

                1. You know, I use that so often I just don’t notice it any more. OH SHIT CHECK* MY PRIVILEGE BITCHES

                  * as in “look at it and envy”

              2. I thought that, until a month ago when I had to fly. The TSA was suspicious of my identity, until I told them, “I swear to Allah, that is my real name!”

    2. I don’t think she’s really praising legacy admissions. I think she’s saying its wonderfull for Rupert. D. Dickhead IV who gets in because of grandad even though he’s a dunce.

    3. Maybe she meant “wonderful” in the sense of “amazing” rather than “good”.

  2. I was struck by WF Buckley’s argument for legacy admissions – if colleges want alumni to give preference to their alma mater when it comes to donations, why is it shocking for colleges to behave similarly by giving preference to alumni offspring when it comes to admissions?

    Anyway, as education evolves, these matters may well become moot and accessibility will improve for the poor and middle classes.

  3. Legacy admission is a wonderful thing because it means even if you’re not as qualified as others you’re going to get that slight advantage.

    It means “everybody deserves a world-class, high-falutin college degree, whether they’ve earned it or not!”

    The very essence of progressivism.

    1. Yep. But only if you’ve got the right name or connections. Basically, aristocracy that only teaches aristocracy. Yay! Sotomayor really IS a progressive!

      Isn’t it open news now that the “progressives” are really just feudalists? I mean, the windmills were kind of a giveaway…but yeesh. Only certain people should get a university education? I don’t even think that happened back in the middle ages (all the time anyway…)

      Next up: Progressives Believe ‘Only the right kind of people should read books.’

  4. Isn’t anybody checking green cards in DC?

    We get the supreme court justices we deserve. Elect a progressive n00b, get progressive output.

  5. So we should stop being surprised that the Supreme Court continues to uphold Legacy Rulings?

    1. Nice

  6. This is exactly the belief I would have expected from this woman. Saying it out loud and on the record, however? I didn’t think she was that stupid and unaware.

    1. The usual argument is “legacy admissions, therefore, affirmative action,” but usually it’s not so much an endorsement of legacy admissions and more of a “how can you oppose affirmative action when you support…” sort of thing.

      1. Then maybe she isn’t stupid, but instead trying to head off the possibility that someone will come at her with “I don’t support any admission standard beyond simple merit”?

        1. Then it’s basically her refusing to see the badness in order for her to maintain her beliefs – elites based on privilege rather than merit.

          Not that affirmative action is always bad if it helps truly good students…but when it discredits merit…And wait a minute? Most universities are horrifically easy to get into and they basically give you student loans for breathing now. Uhm, Sotomayor? It’s not 1948 anymore. Oh wait. She’s Progressive. It’s always 1948.

      2. If a diverse student body is essential to a college education, the what of Morehouse?

        1. Some diversity is more equal than others.

          1. Yep, not supposed to make much sense as in much prog thought. They also like Black/Hispanic/”pick your color as long as it ain’t white” clubs and student unions and dances.

            1. It’s only racism when white people do it.

              1. This type of statement could be construed as one of terror intended to convey fear to people of color and therefore regarded as subversive and traitorous with drone strike to follow.

                1. Not unless we go and hide amid Al Qaeda types in Yemen.

    2. I didn’t think she was that stupid and unaware.

      Wasn’t she the one who, during confirmation hearings was mis-characterizing the facts of past supreme court cases when questioned on them?

    3. She said the same thing in the Michigan court case, where she insanely argued that it would be bad for minorities to eliminate legacy preferences.

  7. Of course she’s supports Affirmative Action! Without it, how could anyone as stupid as her (did you see her confirmation hearing–embarrassing!) ever rise to the highest court in the land? God forbid we allow people to advance on merit alone…that’s just unfair and mean!

    1. “Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth, the man who would make his fortune no matter where he started.”

  8. “Foes of inequality who criticize race-based affirmative action should demand the end of legacy admissions with equal fervor.”

    Okay, I probably wouldn’t call myself a “foe” of inequality, so I might not be the target audience. Anyway, I find that discriminating against people because of their skin color is immoral per se. On the other hand, I don’t have a strong opinion about legacy admissions.

    1. People are going to find a way to get their kids advantages. So even if legacies “go away”, they will still happen. It’ll just be more clandestine than it is now.

    2. Why do you think it is immoral, per se, for a person to discriminate upon the basis of skin color?

      Do you think it is immoral, per se, for A to impose the costs of “remediating” prior skin color based discrimination upon B?

  9. You guys I’m…I just don’t have the energy to give a shit about Affirmative Action anymore.

    On the one hand the ludicrously low bars of achievement set by public schools and the system-gaming by insane helicopter parents renders the idea of a ‘meritocracy’ in college admissions somewhat meaningless.

    On the other hand, the eliteness of elite educational institutions is highly suspect. With rampant grade inflation and teaching duties being increasingly passed off to adjuncts and grad students (but elite ones to be sure), I’m not convinced that there are any benefits to attending Ivy League schools except for a fancy name on the diploma and membership in the mutual handjob association that governs hiring at the upper echelons of business and government.

    If schools want to give a chance to people who don’t “deserve” to be there for whatever reason, I say let ’em. Maybe they’ll do something great with the opportunity. And the person who got bumped should be smrt enough to make the most of whatever school they do get in to.

    Using the government to regulate college admissions is a fools game.

    1. AA is government regulating college admissions.

      I could care less what a private school does, but when you take my money to give to a college, they ought to be merit admission only.

      1. Well okay I already mentioned just some of the glaring problems with the idea of meritocracy in college admissions.

        But caring how government spends “your” money is a more fundamental problem for you to address. Once the government takes money from you, it’s no longer yours, and you have no good reason to care how they spend it.

        1. Once the government takes money from you, it’s no longer yours, and you have no good reason to care how they spend it.

          I have it on good authority that the money the government hasn’t yet taken also isn’t yours and, according to Van Jones, has essentially been stolen from the government.

          1. Vaaan Jones! Never saw someone else’s stuff without saying “that’s not his, it’s mine!”

    2. You guys I’m…I just don’t have the energy to give a shit about Affirmative Action anymore.

      The idea that you’re “competing for positions with people of other races” is ludicrous anyway.

    3. and membership in the mutual handjob association that governs hiring at the upper echelons of business and government.

      Is there any other reason to go to one of those top universities? Every minute you spend at one of those places trying to learn rather than trying to meet people is a minute wasted. If you want to learn you go to a relatively cheap state school. If you want to learn on a budget you go to a community college first.

      1. if you want to learn, there’s internets.

        1. And books.

  10. …admissions offices to consider regional or economic background instead of race. …

    “Well, the problem with that answer is that it doesn’t work. It’s not that I don’t believe it works, I don’t think the statistics show that it works. It just doesn’t.”

    Wait, works how? Is she simply defining “diversity” as racial diversity? What is the objective, and how is this broader consideration of a candidate’s background shown, by statistics, that it does not “work?”

    1. She’s saying blacks and hispanics aren’t good enough to get into the best schools on their own efforts, so the government needs to do something.

    2. Pretty much. There’s nothing else. Nope. No poor white people. Never been any, but hopefully will be soon.

      And I thought you knew that racial diversity leads to other diversities anyway. Because, according to Aff. Act., people’s thoughts and actions are determined by race. Yay!

  11. Dirty secret. I got legacy points for admission to Cornell, because my dad went there.

    Am I privileged? Well, my grandfather was a street urchin in New York in 1912. He later became sucessful as a carpenter. His son grew up to get a PhD in physics. But he ended up unemployed and working as a substitute high school teacher, because I dunno maybe he was a little autistic, so we were quite poor.

    I was pretty happy to get into Cornell, I had a 1490 SAT score so I think I would have got in anyway. Legacy admission just gives you one extra point out of many factors. My dad died when I was 17 and it was nice to be able to go to the same school that he went to and see some places that he grew up with.

    1. 1490? Was that when English/Math were each worth 800? So, you were 110 points off a perfect score?

      Yes, bitch, you would have gotten in regardless.

      1. Yes. I got an 800 in math and a 690 in english.

        1. At least I beat you in English, you legacy bitch!

          As for math? Fuck STEM!

          1. Hazel you crushed me in math. Okay?

            Besides, those bastards on Cornell’s admission staff blackballed me because I had the intellectual integrity and stupidity to criticize two members of the university’s Board of Trustees. One was named Rockefeller and the other Kissinger.

      2. Not at Cornell. My wife got a perfect score and still didn’t make it into Rice University.

      3. And it was before they bumped the scores up by 100 points because kids were getting stupider. So really, 1590/1600.

        1. Also, I only took it once, because I didn’t know about things like SAT prep courses or taking it three times to get the best score. I just got one of those “Take the SAT” books from the library and worked through it on my own.

  12. All state schools should be required to admit based solely on objective, blind standards like SAT/ACT scores.

    NYC’s test high schools admit based on test scores – that’s it. They are forbidden by law from considering race, socio-economics, or legacies.

    Private schools – well that’s another matter. Federal funding complicates it.

    1. There is a book out there by a guy from….UCLA who showed the admin departments just ignore the law and secretly use race as a way in.

      Here’s an article by the prof:

      http://www.breitbart.com/Breit…..Admissions

      1. Yeah, They can’t do that at the NYC test schools because they use blind admissions. Test scores that’s it.

        1. Yeah, keep believing that.
          I spent many years in California after they “outlawed” race based admissions and hiring and can tell you, with no uncertainty, that it happens, they just got good at hiding it.
          Next, you’ll be telling us that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan”.

  13. Well, the problem with that answer is that it doesn’t work. It’s not that I don’t believe it works, I don’t think the statistics show that it works. It just doesn’t.

    The statistics show that East Asians are smarter than European whites and Caribbean mulattoes trail behind both.

  14. She has always supported legacy admissions, as in this story from last year. It’s kind of crazy.

    1. Interesting. When I read the quote above, I assumed she was being sarcastic and didn’t actually support legacies. Now I’m not so sure.

      1. Yeah, she actually objected to the idea that U Mich might drop legacy admissions, out of some really crazy logic.

  15. college? If someone truly wants to be educated, everything is free on the internet. Just google it, morons.

  16. Private universities should be able to set whatever admissions criteria they choose. Government universities should not be allowed to even ask an applicant’s race, and all applications should be computer coded to remove names and replace them with an identifying number for the application process. The 14th Amendment pretty much requires such an approach.

    1. Actually it’s the 14th that they use as justification that we wind up with equal outcomes, thus “diversity”.
      What someone needs to ask these kinds of a$$ hats is “why is ‘diversity’ so freaking important?”

  17. Legacy admissions are a brand loyalty program. They’re no different than that plastic card that so many businesses hand out.

    Unlike other admissions shenanigans, legacy admissions are available to everybody who attends. For their kids.

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