February 20, 2015
Major and Classification
- Gary D. Painter, Ph.D.
- Policy, Planning, and Development
“Legacy Policy from 1991 to 2005: A Case Study of the University of Southern California and its Effects on Academic Caliber and Diversity of Student Population”
In light of the split verdict delivered in the Michigan Affirmative action case, various critics of the Supreme Court’s decision and advocates of affirmative action have led a public outcry against the use of legacy policies. These policies offer admission preferences to the children and sometimes grandchildren or siblings of alumni in many of our nation’s top private and public institutions. Opponents of legacy policies argue that such policies significantly hinder campus diversity, drawing from a historical white pool. This study investigates through a case study approach the effects of the University of Southern California’s (USC) past and present use of a legacy policy. The study focuses on the effect USC’s legacy policy has had on the racial and ethnic composition of the university’s entering freshman population as well as the growth in the academic caliber of its entering fall freshmen admits from 1991 to 2005. The time period reviewed in this study starts from the inauguration of USC’s tenth president, Steven B. Sample, to the present. Due to the inaccessibility of the racial percentages of freshman legacy admit and their academic records, this study looks at three different campus publications to gain insight into the academic caliber of USC legacy admits. Furthermore, the study compares the racial percentages of USC’s entering freshman class to another university with similar academic standards, located in an urbanized setting, and one that offers no admission preference to alumni children. However, overall, the results of the study are inconclusive due to lack of actual concrete data regarding the ethnic breakdown and average standardized test scores, annually of USC legacies from 1991-2005, with the exception of the racial composition of USC legacies (Scions) in the year 2001 and 2004.