by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Biden administration is investigating whether elite universities violate federal civil rights law when they give preferential treatment to the children of alumni and donors.
Opposition to legacy admissions, however, may be an awkward policy position for President Joe Biden to wrap his arms around given that his own family has benefited from the practice. Five members of the Biden clan—two of Biden’s children and three of his grandchildren—have graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In at least one instance, Biden called in a special favor with the president of the university to get his granddaughter admitted.
Now, the president wants to pull up the ladder from behind him. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights last week informed Harvard University it is investigating whether the school discriminates against minority students by admitting allegedly underqualified white applicants from wealthy and connected families. The investigation comes after a trio of liberal groups filed a lawsuit that claims Harvard’s legacy admissions practices violate the Civil Rights Act.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president believes “legacy admissions hold back our ability to build diverse student bodies.”
Just five years ago, Biden was hoping the practice would benefit his granddaughter, Maisy Biden, who lacked the 4.0-plus GPA that is typically necessary to earn a spot at a school with a 5.9 percent acceptance rate, communications from a copy of Hunter Biden’s laptop show. She did, however, have a grandfather who knew the university’s president.
Biden spoke frequently with University of Pennsylvania president Amy Guttman about Maisy’s application, and Guttman kept Biden updated on the admissions process. She told him on Dec. 13, 2018, that Maisy had been deferred in the early admissions cycle, offering tips on how to boost Maisy’s application. Biden would pass those updates along to Maisy’s father, Hunter Biden.