Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

“Carleton is not a club”: college ends legacy admissions

On June 29, the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions, ending the practice of affirmative action for schools across the country, including Carleton College. Weeks later, President Allison Byerly announced that Carleton’s admission office will no longer take legacy status into consideration when deciding an applicant’s admission status. The end of these two practices marks a major change in Carleton’s admissions process.


The Supreme Court cases, Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students For Fair Admissions v. The University of North Carolina, marked the end of a practice that the namesake group, Students for Fair Admissions, argued fostered an admissions process of racially based admissions and created an unfair policy for students. Many critics of the decision, however, argue that affirmative action is necessary to create an inclusive and diverse educational environment, a key component of what they argue is quintessential to a liberal arts education. Byerly commented to the Carletonian that “a liberal arts education of the kind we offer at Carleton is about learning in community through the exchange of ideas and perspectives. Diversity of all kinds is an essential component of the learning process. Students who bring different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs create a stronger learning environment for everyone.”


Many saw the end of affirmative action as all the more reason to end perceived unfair admissions practices. Days after the decision, the college released a draft of its strategic plan. Among other concerns identified in the plan, including expansion of no-loan financial aid and a new carbon neutrality goal of 2025, Goal I restated Carleton’s commitment to its diversity efforts after the Supreme Court decision. Among other means of ensuring a diverse college environment, the memo took specific aim at legacy admissions. The public memo that was released to all students on August 29 recommended that the college “implement new admissions recruiting strategies, including reconsideration of legacy preference, to support our diversity efforts following the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.” Days later, Byerly issued a statement ending the practice of legacy admissions.


Some students disagree with the decision of ending the admission’s practice. Rahim Hamid ’26 argues that “legacy admissions should remain because they don’t take away spots from lower-income students, and legacy admissions facilitate aid for those lower-income students.” Hamid went on to state that “Legacy admits make up such a small percentage of the admitted student body that they aren’t competing against low-income students. Rather, they’re competing against other high-income students, because the admissions office already separates students by household income.” Many students have raised similar concerns over how the elimination of legacy admissions may impact alumni relations with the college. An anonymous junior remarked that “There are schools like Harvard where something like 30% of their student body [are legacy admits], but Carleton is different. At Carleton, I think that legacy admits are, like, 5% of a class.” They continued, “I’m anxious that the decision may leave a sour taste in the mouth of some alumni. It probably doesn’t look good that we want to sever a potential relationship with them. Even if a lot of their kids do get accepted, I think a lot of them probably have money that could help lower-income students afford Carleton. From that perspective, isn’t it better if we just keep the illusion of a relationship with them?” 


Byerly, however, has noticed a different response from her alumni connections. “I am proud of the response of the Carleton community. Alumni have been overwhelmingly supportive of the decision. I received many emails from alumni who wrote something along the lines of, ‘I would love for my child to attend Carleton one day, but I am happy to have them be considered for admission on the same basis as other applicants.’”


Though Byerly, the parent of a Carleton graduate, was proud of the general alumni response, not all alumni share the same sentiments. “A few have expressed some disappointment at the idea that Carleton no longer values the multi-generational connections that have been so important in the past.” Regardless, the president has made efforts to continue relationships with those alumni. “I have tried to convey that we expect to continue to welcome many students with deep family connections to Carleton and value their presence — the only difference will be that those students can be sure that they were admitted entirely on their own merits.”


Many students, however, are mostly ambivalent about the change, feeling that the status quo may remain the same. Tripp Tokioka ’26 says, “I think it’s probably a good idea. I just don’t think it will change much in terms of how prospective students are accepted.” 


President Byerly agreed that the decision to end legacy admissions was unlikely to augment the student body substantially, arguing that it shows prospective students the values that Carleton represents. President Byerly commented to the Carletonian that “The elimination of legacy preference in admissions is not likely in and of itself to have an enormous impact on the overall composition of the student body. But we believe it sends an important message about our commitment to welcoming students from a wide range of backgrounds through a process that does not privilege past family affiliation.”


Though many students, like Hamid, are skeptical that the decision will compensate for the loss of affirmative action, it is hard to say what the impact will be until the class of 2028 arrives. “I think we will just need to see what the class of 2028 looks like,” Hamid said.


In an early September interview with Minnesota Public Radio days after the decision to end legacy admissions, Byerly conveyed the same narrative that she holds today: it’s about the message. “This is really about the message it sends to potential applicants about our desire to be as broad and inclusive as possible: that [Carleton College] is not a club. This is an academic institution that looks for a certain set of backgrounds, experiences and qualifications in students — and that’s the basis on which all students will be assessed.”


Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *