Upon reading Agatha Advincula’s column about legacy admissions, my first instinct was anger. As the son of immigrants, I grew up with the idea that merit and hard work are the things that should be valued most. When my parents came to this country, they didn’t have money, they didn’t have connections, and they certainly didn’t have Ivy League educations. Their success was predicated on their guts and determination alone. To see those principles so fluidly and easily dismissed made me angry on an innate level.
I vehemently disagree with the principles presented in the article. I believe that legacy admissions is a practice founded on discriminatory grounds, that it continues to perpetuate generational inequalities, and that meritocracy is something to be valued and prized. To me, legacy is symbolic of all of the worst aspects of elite institutions. Additionally, I know that authors should not be averse to criticism. The act of writing itself is an invitation for criticism on some level. But there is a fundamental difference between disagreeing with someone and believing that they are undeserving of basic respect. Many people on social media don’t seem to understand this distinction.
The comments weren’t hard to find. These include comments like, “I'm not saying that no legacy students deserve to attend prestigious schools, I'm just saying that you definitely don't," which received hundreds of likes, not from random strangers on the internet, but from Penn students and alumni. These are people that Agatha has to face on a day-to-day basis. Did those comments attempt to analyze or critique her article? No. Did those comments add anything to the conversation? No.
Take a minute, if you will, and put yourself in her position. You’ve made a mistake. Now, hundreds of your peers and people that you admire are essentially telling you that you don’t belong here. Your ideas are stupid. Your life experiences are sheltered and invalid. As distant as it may be, think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that. Are you picking up a pen and writing anything soon? When you meet new people, are you wondering if, behind a fake smile, they’re ridiculing you? Are you going to be forever known as “that person” who authored “that article”?
These days, witch-hunting is more accessible than ever. Just click the "like" button, easy as that. Click it, laugh, and go about the rest of our day. In a few hours, you’ve forgotten that you’ve even done it. The only person who is still thinking about it by then is the human being at the receiving end.
But what does that willingness to agree so quickly, to bandwagon, say about us as a community? Are we a community that, despite how much we may disagree, will at least show a classmate basic respect for putting their thoughts out onto a public forum? Or are we a community that will destroy and belittle someone over a mistake? Penn students complain that we don’t get the power to shape Penn as we would like to see it. That we don’t get a vote. Well, this is one of those few, precious times when we really do have a vote. We have a chance to democratically choose the values we represent. Click wisely.
ALEX YANG is an Engineering sophomore studying Computer Science. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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