Clerical Racism

AN AD HOC COMMITTEE at the GSAS on Friday charged the Graduate School with maintaining "racist" admissions policies. A quick look at the breakdown of graduate student admissions shows that something indeed is amiss.

In 1970, 31 black students were registered in a class of 686. In 1973, 8 black students were registered in a class of 551. This means that minority enrollments have dropped in those three years from 5 per cent to 2 per cent.

This drop can be--and is--explained away by a variety of reasons. There has been an overall drop in graduate school applications; minority students are turning to the professional schools; minority candidates are simply not applying anywhere. These defenses against charges of racism are supported by masses of slippery figures.

At Harvard as well as at other graduate schools across the country, the figures on minority admissions and registrations are elusive, outdated, and available only on a very limited basis. But according to the administrators, this is not racism, this is clerical inefficiency.

It is precisely the racism of "clerical inefficiency" that is the hardest to pin down and the hardest to combat. There is no recognizable ill-will, nor is there any overt discrimination that can be attacked. But the end result is the same: A repressed minority group continues to be repressed.

Racism in admissions policies at the GSAS evinces itself in a peculiar "feet caught in the bureaucratic mire" inaction. Although it is clear that the active recruiting policies of the late '60s did bring in a significantly increased number of minority applicants--the 31 enrolled in 1970 were an all-time high--the recruiting of the '70s has been, at best, perfunctory. The business of recruitment continues as a mere adjunct of the regular admissions process. No successor has yet been found for Joseph Strickland, assistant dean of the GSAS, killed in 1972, whose job it was to head minority recruitment.

Harvard's graduate school must not be allowed to continue blaming its unattractiveness to minority candidates on the applicants themselves. Unless Harvard and its administrators wish to continue to deserve the adjective "racist"--in practice if not in theory--then they must revitalize their recruitment program and more actively seek minority candidates.