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Photo by Chensiyuan // CC BY-SA 4.0

Students at Brown University voted on a referendum concerning legacy admissions, the Brown Daily Herald reported.  

According to the Daily Herald, the campus-wide referendum asked the question: should Brown “disclose all internally written admissions policies and disaggregated data about legacy treatment” and further “charge a joint committee of students, alumni and administrators to re-examine the use of legacy status in the admissions process"?  It took place on March 20 - 22 via an online survey to all undergraduates.  

The Undergraduate Council of Students unanimously elected to hold this referendum at their general body meeting on March 14. The election also voted for various student board leaders. 

The legacy referendum was in response to the #FullDisclosure Campaign, which is “a coalition of student groups from universities including Brown, Yale and Princeton that aims to increase transparency about the role of legacy status in the admission process,” according to the Daily Herald.

“We’re not against legacy, we just want to see all the data before we can have a more informed conversation about it,” Brown University student Shawn Young, who represented #FullDisclosure at the general body meeting, said to the Daily Herald.  

The vote comes after a letter denouncing legacy-based admission policies received signatures from first-generation low income groups across 12 institutions, including the Harvard Legacy Project, Yale Students Unite Now, Princeton Hidden Minority Council, and the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance at the University of Chicago. 

Seven|Eight, Penn’s first-generation, low-income group for Asian Americans, voted to sign the letter, although Penn’s largest FGLI group Penn First did not. 

The letter claims legacy admissions are “rooted in discrimination,” reinforce “cycles of class inequity,” and hamper “economic mobility in America.” 

Quoting a nine-year-study that showed “no statistically significant evidence of legacy preference policies impacting total alumni giving,” the letter urged universities to ensure “all students have equal footing in the admissions process regardless of whether or not their parents attended a certain university.” 

At Penn, legacy applicants constitute 16 percent of the whole undergraduate student population and are defined as students whose parents or grandparents are affiliated with any undergraduate school or graduate program. 

At Penn, the New York Times published a data set in 2017 that revealed only 3.3 percent of Penn students come from families at the bottom 20 percent, while 71 percent come from families that are in the top 20 percent financially.