Removing legacy admissions preferences in Harvard’s admissions process “is one of the things that’s under consideration,” Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Hopi E. Hoekstra said in an interview with The Crimson last week.
Harvard launched a University-wide review of its admissions policies after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the University’s use of race in its admissions process was unconstitutional.
Over the summer, three civil rights groups sued Harvard, alleging that giving preference to legacy applicants violates the Civil Rights Act, while the U.S. Department of Education launched its own civil rights probe into Harvard’s legacy practices.
In an interview with The Crimson earlier this month, University President Claudine Gay said “everything is on the table” when it comes to potential changes to the admissions process, although Gay did not explicitly comment on whether Harvard was considering ending legacy admissions preferences.
Nonetheless, Gay’s and Hoekstra’s comments in recent weeks signal that Harvard’s top administrators are weighing the future of the practice in internal discussions.
Following the Supreme Court decision, Harvard has thus far revamped its application essays and instructed alumni interviewers not to consider applicants’ races during interviews, but has not officially indicated whether the school is likely to abolish legacy admissions preferences.
In previous interviews, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 — who reports directly to Hoekstra — has defended legacy admissions, saying legacy status is “a slight tip” in the overall process and a longstanding practice of the admissions office.
Like Gay, Hoekstra would also not give her personal opinion on whether or not Harvard should consider legacy status when making admissions decisions, saying that her personal views “are just not relevant.”
Hoekstra — who was appointed to be FAS dean just two days before the Supreme Court’s decision — said Gay is “really approaching this in a holistic fashion,” but Hoekstra does not “want to speculate on the outcome.”
“Let’s look at the data. Let’s hear from the faculty. Let’s take all of these things into account,” she said.
Hoekstra said she is assisting the admissions review in two ways: gathering and sharing data and conducting outreach to faculty to understand “what makes Harvard classrooms so dynamic.”
The Court’s ruling “really told us what we can’t do” in admissions, Hoekstra said, so the school is “trying to explore all the things that we can do.”
In the wake of the ruling, some outside observers have proposed that universities like Harvard should consider socioeconomic factors in admissions more strongly, which they say could maintain racial diversity in the student body.
Like other top Harvard administrators during the Supreme Court litigation and following the ruling, Hoekstra reiterated her support for a diverse learning environment, and said this extends to socioeconomic diversity.
“As an institution, we want to create a diverse community with people that bring perspectives and have diverse backgrounds, that have faced adversity and overcome that,” Hoekstra said. “That diversity comes on many axes, including, for example, socioeconomic diversity.”
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on X @eschisgall.