Bender's Final Report on Admissions Warns Against 'Elitism,' Increasing Cost of College
Blasts 'Top One Per Cent' Policy
The strong voice of former Dean of Admissions Wilbur J. Bender '27, which guided the College's admissions policy through eight significant years, returned today in his final report to warn of the hazards facing the Harvard of the future.
In language ranging from bitter rhetoric to frequently beautiful prose, Bender's valedictory report expressed fears for a future Harvard grown sterile with self-conscious intellectualism. Further, Bender predicted that a Harvard education would cost $4,000-$5,000 a year by 1970, and that the College's scholarship funds will be inadequate to their task.
The report to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for the academic 1959-60, completed last spring, created considerable excitement among official Harvard before its eventual release today. It is accompanied by a University News Office release that omits many of Bender's charges and worries and concentrates on a statistical summary.
Bender's Prediction True
In 1960, with Harvard able to admit only 30 per cent of its candidates. Bender foresaw an end to the meteoric rise in applications that marked his tenure, because of discouragement on the part of students, schools, and alumni workers. Last spring his prediction came true.
Bender expressed great worry about the College's scholarship program in his report, pointing out that the "self-help" gap for scholarship students had grown from $450 in 1950 to $800 in 1960.
"Only a handful of American colleges have total endowments as large as our financial aid capital funds," he wrote. "Yet despite this extraordinary outpouring of funds, which can hardly be expected to continue at this pace indefinitely, no significant gains were made in lowering the economic barrier to a Harvard education."
Excerpts and tables from Bender's report will appear in Monday's CRIMSON.
The former Dean warned against taking "the continuous-tuition-increase road," saying that "easy money is dangerous money, for institutions as well as individuals."
He devoted the major and final portion of his report to an eloquent attack on the "top-one-per-cent" policy--an attempt to admit only students who would stand, academically, in the upper one per cent of the country's undergraduates.
Bender observed that high school rank can be a false indicator of promise for the future: "The top high school student is often, frankly, a pretty dull and bloodless, or peculiar, fellow."
Selection of a student body based solely on high school grades, test data, and Predicted Rank List standings, Bender said, could turn the College into a collection of brittle, neurotic super-intellectuals.
Asks For 'Human Scale'
Finally, Bender made a plea for a Harvard with some students "who aren't brilliant or leaders, who are just plain, ordinary, decent uncomplicated human beings ... to provide a human scale in this community of superman."
He asked for a College "with some snobs and some Scandinavian farm boys who can skate beautifully and some bright Bronx pre-meds, with some students who care passionately about editing the Crimson or beating Yale ... Won't even our top-one-per-cent be better men and better scholars for being part of such a college?"