ONE OF THE Graduate School of Arts and Sciences' most persistent problems is the lack of applications from minority groups. Despite new plans launched each year, the GSAS does not seem able to increase its minority applicant pool, or even keep it from shrinking. This year there are a total of 12 blacks and three other minorities in an entering class of 535. And while the same number of blacks are entering the GSAS this year as last, even after a 32-per-cent drop in black applicants, the GSAS, by its own admission, failed again last year.
This year, the graduate school has come up with a new plan to increase the pitifully small minority applicant pool, hoping to be able to choose from a larger number of qualified minority applicants. The GSAS plan, if implemented, would enable a prospective graduate student to submit an application to one school and have it reviewed automatically by other schools; this plan would include Harvard, Yale, Princeton and possibly other schools. The major benefit of this "consortium" is that it probably cannot fail to increase the individual departments' awareness of qualified students. The potential drawbacks are that department chairmen may fail, as they have in the past, to become involved in the actual implementation of the program, shirking the responsibility of individual recruiting. Secondly, the GSAS might use this plan, if it is unsuccessful, to avoid facing the fact that Harvard has failed singly also, placing the blame instead on the consortium in general.
President Bok's plan is similar to the GSAS one, but it calls for a much larger, centralized recruiting office of up to 40 universities, although it doesn't include an automatic application review by all participating universities. The problems with Bok's plan are similar to those in the GSAS recruiting idea, in terms of passing the buck onto the centralized system. But Bok's additional proposals for more fellowships for minorities and for summer programs exposing minority students to graduate schools are both good and should be included in the overall strategy to attract more minority students to graduate schools.
The GSAS has already undertaken a less ambitious program, whereby the primary GSAS feeder schools will submit to participating graduate schools the names of all highly qualified college seniors as potential applicants. One GSAS administrator has already said she objects to making this program nation-wide, because the GSAS applicant pool is and should remain highly selective. Statements such as this one defeat the purpose of a recruiting plan, for students at the highly selective feeder schools are certainly not the ones who need to be pulled into the applicant pool. It is the students at state schools and less prestigious institutions, who have done well during college, but who are unaware of the possibility of continuing their studies at top-ranked schools whom the graduate schools must seek.
Although there are problems with the two new GSAS recruiting schemes, both plans should be approved and finalized at the September 29 meeting between Harvard, Yale and Princeton in New Haven and the plan should be implemented for the next year's incoming class. Both the consortium and the plan to exchange names should eventually be extended to a nation-wide scale. The GSAS should accept its part of the blame for past failures, as should the department charimen. President Bok's proposal seems a worthy one, and these groups should work with other graduate schools to improve a minority recruiting performance that has in the past been nothing more than pathetic.