The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

W&L to keep legacy admissions after affirmative action strike-down

The admissions office is facing new challenges this year. Legacy admissions isn’t one of them.
Some children of alumni grow up with Washington and Lee as a central part of their lives, especially when they attend events such as Young Alumni Weekend. Photo by Julianna Stephenson, ‘26

One out of 10 current Washington and Lee students are children of university alumni, said Bryan Price, assistant provost of accreditation and institutional research.

Members of the admissions office said their goal is to maintain that proportion of legacy admits, even as peer institutions have done away with an admissions preference for children of alumni.

Amherst College, for example, axed legacy admissions in October 2021. And Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college in Connecticut with a 16% acceptance rate, did away with the practice this summer.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities can not use race as a factor in admissions decisions. Vice President of Admissions Sally Richmond told the Phi in September that diversity will likely decline at Washington and Lee as a result of that decision.

In an interview last week, she said she doesn’t think the end of affirmative action will change how the admissions office regards those admits.

For over 40 years, approximately 10 percent of each class has consisted of legacy students, Richmond said. She doesn’t foresee that statistic changing.

“The university’s goals and mission remain consistent,” Richmond said. “Therefore, our efforts [persist] to enroll as academically talented and widely diverse a class that we can.”

Isabella Custard, ’26, a legacy student, said she thinks any special privileges she had as a child of an alum ended once she was accepted to Washington and Lee. However, she said she does believe that she has more connections with alumni and had a much easier transition into college because she was so familiar with the university.

“I definitely felt very comfortable coming to W&L because I’ve grown up around it,” Cus- tard said. “It really helped take away a lot of the pressure.”

Elias Dakhoul, ’26, a first-generation college student, said he does not believe the university gives legacy students extra opportunities.

Twelve percent of the class of 2027 is made up of first-generation students.

But Dakhoul believes being a legacy changes aspect of social life, including Greek life. Custard agreed that being the child of an alumni has positively affected her social life.

“My roommate freshman year – who is one of my best friends – her mom and my mom were in the same pledge class,” Custard said. “A bunch of my mom’s friends also have girls in my grade, so that was really fun because I came in knowing a lot of people.”

Adelaide Loving, ’25, another legacy student, said having a parent who is an alum hasn’t affected her experience with Greek life.

“My mom was a Chi O here, and I ended up going Pi Phi,” Loving said. “I think it’s very much based on how well you would fit within each sorority.”

Loving said other events such as Parents Weekend, Mock Convention and the Honor System are very important to her, partly because they were important to her mom.

Dakhoul agreed that those events perhaps have more meaning to legacy students than they do for him.

“Parents Weekend, for example, would be a tradition in the family, but for me, it’s just another weekend,” Dakhoul said.

Legacy admissions affect more than social life. They influence the donations that fund the university too.

Susan Wood, executive director of the University Development’s office, said that during fiscal year 2023, 11% of donations came from alumni who have children currently attending the university.

But each family that enrolls multiple generations at Washington and Lee is different, Custard said.

“I definitely think I have an advantage because my mom is an alumni, but it depends on the student you talk to and how involved their parent is,” Custard said

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