Bush Backs Ending Admission Preferences for Children of Alumni
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
(NY Times: registration required)
Published: August 7, 2004
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 - President Bush told a convention of 5,000 minority journalists on Friday that colleges should not give preferences for admission to the children of alumni, a position that put him at odds with his own history at Yale University.
Mr. Bush made his remarks at the Washington Convention Center in response to a question from Roland S. Martin, a syndicated columnist and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, about whether colleges should give preferences to applicants, commonly called legacies, whose parents or grandparents attended the same institution.
"So the colleges should get rid of legacy?" Mr. Martin asked Mr. Bush at a question-and-answer session that followed the president's address to the convention.
"Well, I think so," said Mr. Bush, who is a son, grandson and also a father of Yale graduates. "Yeah. I think it ought to be based on merit."
Mr. Bush said that he assumed Mr. Martin had brought up the issue because of the president's Yale legacy, but Mr. Bush also joked that "in my case, I had to knock on a lot of doors to follow the old man's footsteps." Mr. Bush apparently meant that he had to work hard to succeed.
Mr. Bush was questioned in the context of a 2003 Supreme Court decision that preserved affirmative action in college admissions by upholding the system of the University of Michigan's law school, which considered race as only one factor in admissions. At the same time, the court ruled that a formulaic racial point system used by Michigan's undergraduate school was unconstitutional. Mr. Bush opposed both policies, calling them thinly disguised quota systems.
Supporters of affirmative action have long said that legacy admissions are effectively affirmative action for whites, and that anyone who opposes affirmative action as special treatment should be intellectually consistent by opposing legacies as well. Mr. Bush appeared to embrace that argument on Friday when he said, in the context of legacies, that there should not be "a special exception for certain people in a system that's supposed to be fair."
Mr. Bush made his comments about legacies at the end of a speech that was coolly received and at one point interrupted by a heckler who shouted, "Shame on you for your lies." The man was removed from the room, and organizers of the conference said that he was not a member of any of the black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian-American journalists' organizations that are taking part in the convention....