San Diego Union Tribune

August 7, 2004

Bush says he opposes college 'legacy' admissions
Acceptance 'ought to be based upon merit'


WASHINGTON President Bush yesterday said he opposed "legacy" admissions policies favoring the children of alumni that are used by many prestigious universities including Yale, which accepted Bush despite a relatively weak academic record.

Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his grandfather, the late Sen. Prescott Bush, had graduated from Yale. His daughter, Barbara, received her degree from Yale this year.

Speaking to a convention of minority journalists, the president also restated his opposition to affirmative action quotas for college admissions, while supporting the goal of greater diversity.

While endorsing Supreme Court rulings against universities using racial preferences in admissions, Bush said, "I support colleges affirmatively taking action to get more minorities in their school."

Bush said all institutions, including the news media, should work to increase diversity. That remark drew one of the relatively few rounds of applause from the audience of black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian journalists.

Asked about legacy admissions, Bush, perhaps for the first time, said there should not be "a special exception for certain people in a system that's supposed to be fair."

When asked directly if colleges "should get rid of legacy," the president said: "Well, I think so. Yeah. I think it ought to be based upon merit."

"In my case I had to knock on a lot of doors to follow the old man's footsteps," Bush said. Spokesman Scott McClellan later said Bush was talking about how hard he had to work to follow his father into the White House, according to the Associated Press.

In response to other questions, Bush defended the latest terrorist alerts, but urged Americans to treat Muslim neighbors as fellow citizens and let law enforcement determine guilt or innocence.

One day after the journalists repeatedly interrupted Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry with loud applause, they gave Bush a generally polite but unenthusiastic reception.

One of the strongest ovations came when the president rejected a newly released book's proposal for internment camps, like those used for Japanese-Americans during World War II, to deal with the terrorist threat in the United States. "We don't need intern camps. Forget it," he said.

Bush went on to acknowledge the concern about law-abiding Muslim citizens being condemned for the terrorist attacks and said the government had to be sensitive to maintaining the balance between defeating terrorists and protecting the presumption of innocence.

Without directly referring to the recently elevated "orange" alert status, the president said, "we have the solemn duty to follow every lead we find and share information we have with with people that could be harmed. And that's exactly what we've done and I'll continue to do as the president."

Bush then asked the journalists "what would happen if we didn't share that information with the people in those buildings and something were to happen? Then what would you write? What would you say?"

Most of the questions from the panel of journalists dealt with minority issues.

In response to one question, Bush urged Congress to approve his plan to allow more foreign workers into the country and to increase the number of green cards given to Mexicans.

Bush in January proposed allowing millions of workers from other countries to enter the United States temporarily to take unfilled jobs. He has made little effort to push Congress to enact the proposal, which is strongly opposed by some key congressional Republicans.