Re Harvard's "featherweight" legacy preference: The real relevant comparison is not to the average non-legacy applicant, but to the average applicant from families as sophisticated and affluent as the families of Harvard alumni. I haven't gone over all of the lawsuit discovery data like some of the posters here. For years various people confirmed that Harvard tracked its acceptance rate for Yale and Princeton legacies (who received no preferential consideration in the admissions process) as a sort of control group for measuring the effect of its preferential consideration of Harvard legacies. The difference in admission rate was very small, and not necessarily significant. There was clearly some sort of embedded preference for the children of affluent, educationally sophisticated families, but Harvard legacy status was indeed a featherweight beyond that.
but basically it's run in the way it's always been run: through the largesse of very wealthy and/or powerful people. To be shocked that their children may have a leg up in admissions is imply to be naive. Or disingenuous. Possibly both.