Minority Recruiting

THE MAIL

To the Editors of The Crimson:

Frustration and anger must have prompted the authors of "Minority Recruitment" (Feb. 21) to frame their article in such aggressive language. But shining through their abrasive prose were legitimate questions about Harvard's minority admissions and minority recruitment that need to be addressed.

The authors of "Recruitment" fear that economic and professional cutbacks have undermined their recruitment efforts. Harvard is not necessarily attractive to the qualified or exceptional minority student, because of either apprehension or ignorance. It is reasonable to conclude that if Harvard wants qualified and talented minorities it must finance and professionalize its recruitment efforts, not undermine them.

Regrettably, many people may read the recruitment article as a plea for minority favoritism. It struck me, however, that the authors were asking for equity, and for a far more rigorous admissions process--not favoritism. They want an accurate assessment of the meaning, or lack of meaning, of standardized test scores, so that other criteria can be assessed in importance and utilized effectively.

Unfortunately, the examples used in the article to attack the SATs seemed ludicrous, although the arguments themselves bear some validity. I fault the article for not suggesting that Harvard must re-assess the validity of its use of SAT scores in evaluating white as well as minority standardized scores.

Equally important to a reassessment of standardized scores is an examination of Harvard's use of non-standardized, "subjective" criteria. Harvard has already institutionalized this sort of subjective criteria--participation in athletic, theatrical, or debating programs, for example--into the admissions process.

Other qualities might be regarded as important when evaluating the disadvantaged minority student in the context of his or her environment. To be unequivocably rigorous, admissions criteria must be sensitive to the forums of expression available to disadvantaged applicants. A sense of injustice, a constructive attitude toward his or her environment, or the ability to adapt to ambiguous cultural situations might be considered important in taking stock of the minority applicant--as well as developing accurate means of academic evaluation. Even-handed admissions criteria would apply these criteria across the boards and stiffen up the admissions process for the majority student as well.

In conclusion, I believe the authors of "Recruitment" are simply asking that Harvard's admissions office be doing what any competent admissions office should do: developing accurate, unbiased, truly rigorous admissions criteria. I do not believe minority students are asking for preferential treatment or favors--most of the minority students I have met here are too qualified to lack a sense of entitlement. It is unfortunate that the misplaced anger and incautious prose on the part of the authors of "Recruitment" is enough to leave them with nothing but their sense of entitlement: no allies in the admissions office; no sympathetic minority or majority alumni; and invariably, no advances. --Jonathan Cahn '80