THERE IS A GULF between the intentions and actions of black Harvard students. They clamor for more active recruiting and admissions of larger numbers of black freshmen. At the same time they discourage prospective students from attending this school. At dining hall tables, on the streets, around the campus, high school juniors and seniors, who respect the opinions of their older and, supposedly, more intelligent and more mature college hosts, constantly hear that "Harvard is a racist school. You'll get messed over here. Don't come here. Go someplace else."
But the students making these charges and advising others to go elsewhere are still here. Obviously there is something good about Harvard that keeps them here, unless they'd have everyone believe their parents have all used the threat of financial estrangement to force them into four years of psychological torture.
If more black students are wanted and needed, why discourage those who apply? The very behavior of these hypocritical students is undermining their professed desires for larger groups of black undergraduates. This is not to make excuses for the University's past and present failures to seek out blacks. But black students shouldn't, by their own, often hypocritical radicalism, turn away the few blacks who do show interest in attending Harvard.
It isn't as if they're talking to a prospective student who's torn between Harvard and North Carolina A & T. Most students who apply to Harvard are also considering two or three of the Ivy schools, the University of Chicago, Amherst or Stanford. All of them include the same categories of institutional racism that characterize Harvard.
Many black undergraduates blast Harvard before their classmates and prospective students, but beat a path to the admissions office in mid-April, anxiously awaiting word on whether or not their brother or sister was admitted to Harvard.
"It's definitely a contradiction and a problem," Dave Evans, associate director of admissions, says. "Some of the most radical, anti-establishment black students on this campus advise other students not to come to Harvard, then approach me, wanting to know how they can get one of their relatives in."
Evans has gone to great lengths to increase the number of black applicants to Harvard. Last fall he spent countless hours after work, mailing letters to the several hundred National Achievement Scholarship semi-finalists. 'Yet such hard work, when it does persuade another black youth to apply, can be undone by a few minutes with black students who think they are doing someone a favor by steering him away from Harvard.
A non-argument often presented to potential Harvard black students is that few spokesmen for black people graduate from Harvard. But, as Evans points out, "Harvard has never produced 'ethnic' leaders for any group: more Catholic-Irish leaders come from Boston College, Holy Cross, St. John's and Notre Dame than from Harvard, although there have long been Catholics at Harvard. Far more Southern white leaders come from Alabama, Texas, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Virginia, and William and Mary than from Harvard. Is it any wonder then that Morehouse, Howard and other black colleges have produced more black leaders than Harvard?"
If Harvard is as bad off as black undergraduates say, they should want to protect their own siblings from undergoing such mental stress in the course of their college careers. Or is this merely a prevalent sado-masochistic tendency among Harvard's black student body?
It's the thing to knock Harvard. But it should be done in the company of fellow students, who have decided to remain in Cambridge despite the numerous inadequacies and oppressive nature of Harvard University. Dissatisfied students should keep unconstructive bad-mouthing to themselves. Blacks already here shouldn't drive others away from experiencing whatever it is about Harvard that keeps them here despite its obvious faults. It's okay to point to Harvard's failings, but would-be students deserve to be told about the advantages and benefits of a Harvard education. Then let the hopeful Harvard-Radcliffe student decide if this is the school he or she wants. Don't hypocritically try to make up people's minds for them.