Hundreds of students, faculty and staff are calling for an end to legacy admissions at Georgetown University.
Over 300 members of the Georgetown community have signed a petition released Aug. 27 calling for an end to legacy admission or legacy preference, defined broadly as extra preference given to a college applicant if family members are alumni or otherwise connected to the university.
The petition specifically calls for Georgetown to end the practice of legacy admission for children of alumni, faculty and staff. Although Georgetown also grants legacy status to descendants of the GU272+, the enslaved persons Maryland Jesuits sold in 1838 to fund the university, the petition does not call for the elimination of this provision.
9 percent of Georgetown’s admitted class of 2024 is composed of legacy students.
Many student organizations have also signed on in support of the petition including Georgetown University College Democrats (GUCD), Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), South Asian Society (GUSAS) and Asian American Student Association (AASA).
Legacy admission policies have come under fire after the Supreme Court in June restricted the use of race-based affirmative action policies with Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. Following this, the Department of Education opened a civil rights inquiry into Harvard’s and other universities’ practice of legacy admissions.
“Georgetown carefully considers all applicants to the University and, as a result, our admissions process has always been as personalized as possible,” a university spokesperson told The Hoya. “We are doing a thorough review of the Supreme Court ruling and our practices. We have no updates to announce at this time.”
Ethan Henshaw (CAS ’26), GUCD’s advocacy director, said ending legacy admissions would result in more diverse classes admitted to Georgetown.
“We want to get rid of legacy admissions to boost diversity,” Henshaw told The Hoya. “The majority of these legacy students disproportionately are whiter and wealthy, and by getting rid of it, we open up more spots for students from all backgrounds from class diversity, racial diversity, cultural diversity.”
Other universities that have eliminated legacy admissions have seen significant increases in the population of students from underrepresented minority groups.
Since Johns Hopkins University eliminated legacy admissions, the share of legacy students in the first-year class has dropped by over 75%, while the percentage of students identifying as Black, Latino, American Indian, Native Alaskan or Native Hawaiian has nearly doubled.
Wesleyan University and Carnegie Mellon University recently announced they would follow suit in abolishing legacy admissions. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has not considered legacy status in admissions since 2006, while the University of California system has not considered legacy status since 1998.
Charles Deacon (CAS ’64), dean of Georgetown undergraduate admissions, said in 2022 that admitting legacy students helps with alumni donations. Johns Hopkins and MIT’s elimination of legacy preferences have not resulted in any decrease in external donations, according to the petition.
A 2023 report from the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that eliminating race-based affirmative action programs would significantly decrease student body diversity at Georgetown and other selective universities.
GUCD co-chair Brandon Wu (SFS ’24) said this report influenced the club’s thinking in creating the petition.
“That, to me, made it very, very clear the urgency behind why this action has to happen now and the unique circumstances that justify why we need students, faculty, alumni and the greater Georgetown community to come together to demand the university take action,” Wu told The Hoya.
Sebastian Cardena (CAS ’26), YDSA’s president and GUCD’s deputy director of advocacy, said they and Henshaw began work on the petition after the Students for Fair Admission decision in June.
Cardena said the decision sparked worries about how the decision would impact minority students and members of the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP).
“It came right after, essentially, the striking down of affirmative action, living in the post-affirmative action world,” Cardena told The Hoya. “We were talking about this and we’re like, ‘What’s going to happen not only to GSPers and people who benefited from affirmative action, most likely like myself, and what we can do about it?’”
Cardena said petition organizers are aiming to create a broad coalition in support of ending legacy admissions, including current legacy students and those of all political affiliations.
“One of the main things we’re trying to do right now is to get this message out, to get people to sign the petition to show that there is strong support, especially from legacy students,” Cardena said. “To show that legacy students do agree with this and understand that this is still a problem, even if they are benefiting from such a structure.”
Several affinity groups on campus have also backed the petition, including GUSAS, AASA and the Circle of Indigenous Students Alliance.
“Georgetown AASA supports affirmative action because its point is to support communities that have been historically marginalized and overlooked,” Rachel Tao (CAS ’25), co-president of AASA, told The Hoya. “It was important for AASA to sign on to signal, first of all, racial solidarity as well as our commitment to lifting up underrepresented voices, including Asian Americans, as well as many other communities.”
“In the wake of affirmative action being overturned, legacy admissions are more important than ever to examine, because legacy admissions actually do the opposite of affirmative action,” Tao added. “They support communities that have been historically already advantaged, and further, current systems of privilege and oppression.”
Asher Maxwell (CAS ’26), GUCD’s communications director, said supporters of the petition are aiming to continue their outreach efforts to pressure the administration to change their official policy on legacy preferences.
“We really want to go everywhere, talk to everybody and make sure that everyone has seen this petition multiple times and that we can get as many people to sign it as possible,” Maxwell said. “We’re very excited about the enthusiasm we’ve seen so far, and we think that we’ve really got some momentum that can build here.”
“We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to rally the kind of internal, external pressure that can really, hopefully, achieve some success,” Maxwell added.
Tao said Georgetown needs to demonstrate bold leadership on legacy admissions.
“Georgetown has the choice of either being a leader or follower in that trend, and especially as a school that prides itself on political advocacy,” Tao said. “Georgetown should choose to be a leader and not a follower. And that’s the decision that we’re making right now.”