MBA program

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At one point or another nearly every student contemplates whether or not to pursue an MBA program. The prospects are appealing as after graduating you can land a prestigious job, have a more successful career opportunity and get a great networking opportunity. Every person who decides to go for an MBA knows that it requires significant money, time and a lot of effort. Not only are academics the primary criterion for admission, personal qualities, extracurricular activities, athletics and references are amongst factors considered by top schools. Systems of legacy preferences and affirmative action also have a place in the selection process; Benjamin Franklin sniped that "a man who makes boast of his ancestors doth but advertise his own insignificance".

"A policy known as legacy gives an unfair advantage to some applicants who had family members that had attended the school in the past over applicants, who are just as deserving of admission but did not have such connections. Admission to some schools is extremely competitive and legacy programs can have a large impact at these schools". Legacy programs have their origins in the nineteen-twenties when A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard's president stated flatly that "too many Jews would destroy the image of the school". He decided of thinking up a way to limit the number of Jews entering. His initial idea was to introduce a quota which would limit Jews to only fifteen per cent of the student body, that method was roundly criticized as it clearly discriminated. He then went on restricting the number of scholarships awarded to Jewish student's thereby making an effort to bring in students from the west, where there were fewer Jews however neither strategy worked. Finally, Lowell and his counterparts at Yale and Princeton recognized that if it was the definition of merit based on academic competence that led to the wrong kind of student, then the solution was to change the definition of merit. That was the turning point for how Ivy League schools operated. The admissions office at Harvard then put onus on the applicant's personal life, admissions officers were told to retrieve information about the candidates "character" from persons who knew the applicants, thus making a letter of reference mandatory. Candidates were required to write personal essays to demonstrate their leadership abilities, and list their extracurricular activities. Applicants were also required to answer questions on race and color, religious preferences, amongst other personal information. After such incidences had taken place, some of the elite schools in the country began offering preference to alumni children in an effort to prevent the rising number of Jewish as well as Roman Catholic students. To my astonishment no one at that time denounced this, however in the nineteen-sixties universities underwent a reform, these changes led to the decline in legacy programs, but even then they still remained. Many believe that legacy programs take away from a schools goal of increasing diversity on campuses and may even be racist, since legacy programs tend to benefit whites more than visible minorities. At Harvard the acceptance rate for legacy applicants is 40%, compared to 11% for the entire applicant pool", and at Groton in the class of nineteen ninety eight, at least 60 of the 79 graduates were white. Berkeley's current application process for MBA asks for "statistical purposes only" the race of the person applying and further application form filling asks of the parents jobs, as well as if they are alumni. Legacy preferences today make it possible for the rich, white, and less qualified students to take seats from students that are just as deserving of admission but not as resourceful. Liberals seem quite willing to tolerate legacies, I imagine because they make it easier to advocate countervailing preferences for their favored groups. Much to my surprise though, when a reporter asked president bush, himself a famous legacy admission if "colleges should get rid of legacy?" he answered "I think colleges ought to use merit in order for people to get in."

Today there are cases where legacy admissions processes are made into a business, not a merit based selective system. Selective universities justify favoring children of alumni and prospective donors on the grounds that tuition doesn't cover the entire cost of education. Children of celebrities, they add, enhance an institution's visibility. "I will certainly factor in a history of very significant giving to Stanford," said Robin Mamlet, admissions dean.The justification offered by some university administrators for such business like transactions is said to be characterized as "fund rai$ing". "Universities are always asking for a helping hand and for money the least the alumni can expect in return is that the universities will take a careful look at their college-age offspring. " A real life example of such a transaction is Matthew Burr, "who ranked fourth in his Groton class but had an SAT score of 1240. Three-fourths of Harvard students have SAT scores of 1380 or higher. Matthew Burr says he took the SAT four times. "I just don't test well," he says. He acknowledges his father's Harvard ties aided his admission chances. "I don't think legacy is a fair criterion for people to get into college. But for me, that was the way it was."

Justice Clarence Thomas observed in a companion case that race is not the only factor that distorts college admission decisions. "The entire admission process is poisoned by numerous exceptions to 'merit,'?" he noted.The biggest insult to meritocracy, however, is found in the country's top universities. Yet they continue to operate a system of "legacy preferences" and affirmative action for the children of alumni."Affirmative action refers to policies that take race, ethnicity, or sex into consideration in an attempt to promote equal opportunity or increase ethnic or other forms of diversity. Affirmative action is used to maximize diversity in all levels of society and to redress perceived disadvantages due to overt, institutional, or involuntary discrimination."Nearly every school gives a sizable edge to underrepresented minorities. "So how do we know that two students one from legacy and one not, who have the same S.A.T scores are really equivalent? Economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale published just such a study. They found that when you compare apples and apples the income bonus from selective schools disappears."

"Legacy is a far more complicated issue than race," insists Thernstrom, who once served on Harvard's admissions committee. Conservatives argue that racial discrimination is in a class of its own, particularly due to the United States' history of slavery and segregation. They say legacy preferences are just not as big a problem as racial preferences. Furthermore, they say that these preferences produce huge benefits for universities that racial preferences don't. Michigan in the year two thousand and six became the third state in the country after Washington and California to approve a ballot imposing a ban to eradicate minority and racial preferences in jobs as well as universities. "And this year Ward Connerly, a black California businessman is taking his campaign further by launching petition drives in Arizona, Nebraska, Missouri, and other states to put similar measures before voters. Even after all these efforts there is no similar effort to get rid of legacy preferences. Even more troubling, many prominent opponents of racial preferences welcome suggestions to get rid of legacies, with a gaping yawn."

My concern is that this matter should be relooked at, as in the process of legacy admissions a fair, merit-based standard is compromised. This is because legacy preferences are seen as "the original sin of admissions", which I think they are, as the original intent of such preferences was to discriminate. The less privileged should not be asked to compete on merit solely, as the more privileged have additional support by the university administrators. Eliminating racial preferences while keeping legacies will only make the admissions process less fair, not fairer as by doing this universities will open up minority slots to competition by whites, and unfortunately not the other way around.