According to a recent Office of Tests study. Harvard's admissions policy-except for the fact that Harvard accepts almost four times as many men as women-is not unfair to the women that apply.
Taking the current pool of applicants, the study-released last week by Dean K. Whitla, director of the Office of Tests and associate director of Admissions-runs through a variety of admissions criteria, superimposing Harvard's practices on the Radcliffe applicant group and Radcliffe's practices on the Harvard group.
While "it is true that the strongest of the Radcliffe rejects appear to be slightly more attractive as applicants than the bottom ranks of Harvard admissions," the study concludes, "the cutting edge of admissions would be equivalent in the two institutions if the ratio of men to women were changed as little as three percent, from the current 79-21 to 76-24."
The study deals only with "the realities of the current applicant pools" -for the Class of 1974, 8003 men and 2538 women applied-and does not pose the questions that would arise if more women applied.
"No matter what the ratio, it's valid to ask what was the basis of choice." Dr. Chase N. Peterson, dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, said last night. "We didn't ask if things were different, then what would we take."
"In spite of the myth of Radcliffe gals being smarter," Peterson added, "the objective criteria seemed to indicate things were pretty much equal."
For the Class of 1974, 19.19 per cent of the Harvard candidate pool and 17.49 per cent of the Radcliffe pool were admitted.
Taking the SAT scores-Radcliffe admits a slightly higher percentage of high scorers on both the verbal and mathematics scales-the study concludes that using just the verbal score, the numbers of women admitted would increase somewhat, and using the mathematical scale, the number of men admitted would increase somewhat.
Using the RIC (rank-in-secondary-school-class), the ratio of women to men would increase by approximately four per cent. Using the POR (Preliminary Overall Rating), the ratio of women to men would increase by approximately six per cent, the largest increase in women.
"In two, three, four years, we will have enough time to find out what people want here, in fact," Peterson said. "An unequal ratio doesn't necessarily imply discrimination-in past just the opposite was considered true. The Radcliffe girl was a valuable commodity."
According to Peterson, the "important issue is finding the best possible educational mix, which may or may not be one-to-one." The significance of this study, he said, "is that good women are not being denied the Harvard-Radcliffe complex because there is no room for them."
"A quota is always discriminatory," Caroline W. Bynum, assistant professor of History, said last night. "The only way to actually see what the quota does is to get rid of the quota."
"There is something wrong with the assumption that the qualities of people you take are the reasons you actually took them," she added.
"There seems to be the assumption," Peterson said, "that if Harvard varies in any way from absolute equality it's somehow immoral. We don't ask, should Vassar be equal?"
"Harvard began as a school for white male divinity students," Bynum said. "Each case of expansion involves a rethinking of what it means to be an educational institution. We are not to be tarred with the brush of 50 years ago."