December 17, 2002
READER WILL WARREN is fact-checking Trent Lott:
In Lott's BET appearance, when he was discussing his born-again commitment to affirmative action, he told a factual whopper that I haven't seen anybody pick up on yet.
The Lott quote: "Again, you can get into arguments about timetables and quotas. Here's what I think, though: I think you've got to have an aggressive effort in America to make everybody have a chance. Harvard has a program where one in three of their students are alumni children. That, you know, we need to balance this out more, and I think that we should encourage minorities to have an opportunity across the board."
One in three? 33% of Harvard students are "legacies"?! How we still groan under the yoke of unjust inherited privilege!
Problem: not true. Not even close. According to the Boston Globe, children of alumni actually make up "about 10%" of each Harvard entering class.
Apparently the Senate Republican leader, having suddenly joined the enthusiasts for racial preferences, has immediately adopted their common practice of greatly exaggerating the institutional obstacles faced by black Americans today.
But perhaps Harvard is an exception; perhaps Mr. Lott need only find another college that fits his "one in three" notion. To get a broader picture of the boot heel of oppression under which those not born to academic privilege now suffer of the unjust class system in which some blacks don't "have a chance," in the Republican leader's words, Googling for "the class of" and "children of alumni" or "alumni children" reveals the following percentages of alumni children in recent freshman classes of other institutions:
Princeton: 12.4%; 11.6% (different years)
U. of Penn.: 10%
Brown: 7%; "about 10%" (different years)
U. of Chicago: "just over 5 percent"
Boston College: 12.1%
Holy Cross: 10.7%
Wake Forest: "about 8%"
Johns Hopkins: 12.4%
Notre Dame: 23%; 22% (different years)
Ithaca College: 1.8%
U. of Virginia: 12.6%
U. of Rochester: 5.4%
I am just stunned by the injustice of it all. Do we really want to live in a world in which only 9 out of 10 students at our most elite colleges are not the children of alumni? In which, even at less selective colleges, only 95 to 98 out of 100 students are not "legacies"? Praise the Lord that the Senate Republican leader has seen the light!
I haven't checked these data myself, but Warren's always been trustworthy.