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Wesleyan Ends Legacy Admissions in Reaction to Affirmative Action Ruling

Wesleyan plans to expand its community college recruiting efforts and establish a scholarship for undergraduate students from Africa

Wesleyan University is the latest university to end legacy admissions in response to the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on race-based admissions.

Amherst College, Johns Hopkins University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology all dropped the practice of giving additional consideration to the children of alumni in reaction to the Supreme Court’s June 29 declaration.

An applicant’s connection to a Wesleyan graduate indicates little about that applicant’s ability to succeed at the University, meaning that legacy status has played a negligible role in our admission process for many years,” wrote Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth in an open letter on July 19. “Nevertheless, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action, we believe it important to formally end admission preference for ‘legacy applicants.’”

“It is important to underscore that Wesleyan has never fixated on a checked box indicating a student’s racial identification or family affiliations,” said Roth, who graduated from Wesleyan in 1978. “We have long taken an individualized, holistic view of an applicant’s lived experience—as seen through the college essay, high school record, letters of recommendation, and interactions with our community.”

Roth said the university’s admissions process is based “upon diverse facets” including an applicant’s “potential to contribute to the university and get the most out of a Wesleyan education.”

“By recruiting students, faculty and staff with diverse life experiences, attributes, and points of view, we continue to build a diverse, energetic learning environment comprised of people who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit,” wrote Roth.

Wesleyan was founded in 1831 and is located in Middletown, Connecticut. Just under 3,500 undergraduates were enrolled during the fall of 2021 and the annual tuition and fees totaled about $64,000. According to US News and World Report, Wesleyan was ranked 18 on the publication’s list of Best Colleges is National Liberal Arts Colleges between 2022-2023.

Roth said the school will focus on recruiting students from across the country to achieve “geographical diversity,” increase efforts to enroll veterans, and invest in its community college recruiting efforts.

Wesleyan also plans to “create an annual scholarship program to recruit and support a group of undergraduates from Africa” and to “solidify” its Center for Prison Education, which aims to “ensure the sustainability of the degree program for incarcerated people.”

In a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court found affirmative action policies “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.” The court found that weighing applicants’ skin color during the admissions process rather than their merits or experience was a violation of the Constitution.

“While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas.

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