Daddy, I want a Diploma!

Talia Cutler ’27

Staff Writer

For Christmas, some high school seniors want their parents to get them a new phone — or maybe a car. Others want acceptance letters. The state of Connecticut has recently proposed Senate Bill 203 — banning legacy admissions at institutions of higher education. First of all, you may be wondering what legacy admission actually is. In short, it means to consider more highly the applications of students whose parents attended the school over “regular” applicants. Does it matter? Absolutely — and furthermore, it is indicative of a troubling culture that permeates Trinity College.

It is no secret that Trinity is a predominantly white institution (PWI). Can you guess what the student body looked like in our parents’ years? If you said “even whiter,” I’d say ‘ding ding ding’ and tell you that you just won a car. Nikki Golos, the Connecticut deputy director of Education Reform Now, told CT Mirror, “we know that legacy applicants are more likely to be white and wealthy. We also know that they’re about three times as likely to be admitted as their non-legacy peers.

Now here is where things get tricky! Presidents of multiple colleges in the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC) sent in written testimony against the proposed bill — and Trinity was one of them. Trinity preaches DEI to an insatiable degree. And yet, here is a system that the school openly practices which gives preference to rich white applicants and matriculates a specific kind of student (that is more likely to donate). Oops! Did I say that? Does this not contradict our mission of inclusivity and diversity at Trinity College? For our sarcasm-blind readers, it absolutely does. But when has being a hypocrite stopped anyone?

Our director of admissions and financial aid is quoted in a Trinity Tripod article from September of 2023 as calling legacy admissions a “non-issue” and asserting that an applicant’s legacy status “never dictated a decision.” If this is true, then why did our president oppose the ban of legacy admissions? If it truly did not matter in the admissions process, why is the school defending their right to cling to this fundamentally unfair practice?

The written testimony states that “while CCIC supports the intent of this bill – to promote equity and access in post-secondary education – we oppose the manner in which the bill seeks to accomplish that goal by interfering with institutional autonomy.” Yeah, because institutional autonomy is more important than Trinity’s so-called “core values” of diversity any day of the week! The language used in the letter is a cop-out. It seems to be attempting to distract from the fact that opposing Senate Bill 203 goes against the college’s mission. Thus, it appears that our administration has found themselves in a Catch 22-esque contradiction. They are diverse and inclusive, but they just need to reserve the right not to be. But of course, they pinky promise that it was never an issue in the first place.

I understand that the issue the letter pointed out was a college’s right to exercise personal discretion when it comes to this classist issue. However, Wesleyan, a fellow liberal arts school and NESCAC 20 miles down the road, used their discretion to abolish legacy admissions in the summer of 2023. Why is Trinity not following suit?

Truthfully, I do not believe it matters if legacy admissions are abolished at Trinity. Even if the school were to make a big announcement and congratulate themselves on how forward-thinking they are, rich white applicants will always remain at the top of the acceptance pile. There is a clear culture here, one that no amount of state regulations can repeal. It is present in nearly every social aspect of campus. It is deeply disappointing, but unsurprising. Legacy admissions are inherently exclusionary to first generation college students, low income students or any student who is not previously connected to Trinity College. If our school is truthful about being committed to a diverse, equitable and inclusionary student body, we would have abolished legacy admissions long ago with our “institutional autonomy.” But we have not — and I believe we likely will not. I do wish transparency was the goal between students and administrators. But I also wish I had a million dollars and a Lambo, so I guess we can’t all get what we want. C’est la vie!

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