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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

A legacy of privilege

WHEN President Bush spoke to a group of 7,000 minority journalists, he made a modest proposal to eliminate "legacy admissions," or, in other words, the practice of giving preference in university entrance to students with family connections.

Well, maybe legacy admissions are expendable to this conservative President, who, after all, had to offer a bone to the minority journalists.

But this idea will not go down well with most of the would-be legatees, to say nothing of their parental units, the legators, who are called on early and often to contribute generously to alumni fund-raising campaigns. These folks are monied, in many cases Republican, and no doubt affronted by Mr. Bush's suggestion.

One such legator stated that several members of his family had been admitted to his esteemed alma mater, and he stoutly hoped several more would benefit from his alumni connections.

President Bush is himself a legatee of family connections, having been educated at Yale and at Harvard Business School. His father, George H.W. Bush, and grandfather, Sen. Prescott Bush, were forbears with a burnish that most of us struggle through college and life without enjoying. Connections, connections, connections.

Critics of the program say that legacy admissions freeze out qualified applicants in favor of affluent heirs of alumni. Defenders rejoin that such admissions solidify alumni ties, and may indirectly benefit minority students as well.

The short of it is that, in a society based to a great extent on the golden rule (he who has the gold makes the rules), little more will be heard of this proposal. In any event, a U.S. president can do relatively little about legacy admissions, and that's just as well.

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