John Rosenberg, that valiant adversary of racial preferences, KOs Richard Kahlenberg’s argument that legacy preferences, even at private universities, should be illegal. Read his Minding the Campus essay and see if you don’t agree.
I think legacy preferences are a bad policy. Admitting students merely because older family members attended (and perhaps thereby loosing their purse strings) undermines the academic quality of the student body just as racial preferences do, although perhaps not as markedly. The schools where legacy preferences are most noteworthy don’t really need the hoped-for additions to their revenues. Their presidents just can’t resist the urge to pull in every possible dollar. But not everything that’s a bad idea is illegal. Rosenberg trounces Kahlenberg’s fevered argument that legacy preferences run afoul of one or more federal statutes or provisions of the Constitution.
Incidentally, Kahlenberg’s hobby horse is that colleges and universities should adopt policies to favor applicants from lower socioeconomic status. Legally, how is that any better than favoring applicants from higher socioeconomic status?