WASHINGTON – President Bush, who followed his father and grandfather to Yale University despite an undistinguished academic record, said Friday that colleges should get rid of “legacy” admission preferences that favor the sons and daughters of alumni.
“I think it ought to be based on merit,” Bush told a conference of minority journalists when he was pressed about his views on affirmative action. “And I think colleges need to work hard for diversity.”
Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, and his grandfather, the late Sen. Prescott Bush, were awarded degrees at Yale, and his daughter, Barbara, graduated from Yale this year.
Colleges’ admission processes have never been equal for everyone. Universities have been known – and criticized – for making special allowances for athletes and children of donors and alumni.
Asked directly if colleges should eliminate legacy preferences, Bush said, “Well, I think so, yes.”
A member of a politically influential family, Bush graduated from Yale in 1968 and didn’t try to hide that he had enjoyed the party life in college and had taken – as he put it – the “academic road less traveled.” Returning to Yale four months after moving into the White House, Bush said with a grin, “To the ‘C’ students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.”
“In my case, I had to knock on a lot of doors to follow the old man’s footsteps,” Bush said Friday. Presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush was talking about how hard he had to work to follow his father into the White House.
Bush told the minority journalists that he opposed quota systems in college admissions, but “I support colleges affirmatively taking action to get more minorities in their school.”
But as for legacy admissions, Bush said there should not be “a special exception for certain people in a system that’s supposed to be fair.”
On Thursday, Democratic nominee John Kerry addressed the Unity convention and received a standing ovation – even though much of the crowd included representatives from media outlets.
Bush received frequent applause but was nearly interrupted by a heckler near the rear of the ballroom. He kept speaking as Secret Service officers and convention officials removed the man.