Letter to the editor: Williams should resist moral posturing on legacy admissions

Steven Gerrard

To the editor:

I was a philosophy major at Amherst for four years, and I’ve been a philosophy professor at Williams for 29 years. One of my daughters graduated from Amherst and one from Williams; they both received fabulous educations. I have loyalty toward both places (although I always root for Williams in athletic contests).

I hope Williams will resist Amherst’s fallacious moral posturing in eliminating legacy admissions. If the Amherst plan would actually work to increase diversity (as Williams’ successful Summer Science and Summer Humanities and Social Sciences programs do), that would be a different and positive story, but at Williams a legacy student from Newton North is not competing with a lower-middle-class student from West Virginia. Rather, the legacy student is competing against their Newton North classmate, who might tragically then have to go to Middlebury. Eliminating legacy students does nothing to increase diversity; it would just result in one privileged student replacing another. In addition, legacy students help build a Williams intergenerational community — a rare characteristic of our college.

PR posturing does harm to places like Amherst and Williams that, in this world of sound bites and irrationality, should be homes instead to rational and deliberative thinking and action. Williams is better than that.

Steven B. Gerrard

Professor of Philosophy Steven Gerrard has taught at the College since 1992.