The Admissions Policy Is Not to Blame


After reading both the lead story in the [April 29] Independent and Daniel H. Choi's [editorial, "Making Affirmative Action Work,"] in The Crimson, I would like to defend the former against some of the charges made by the latter. I think Choi errs in faulting the Indy for not offering admissions policy as a possible explanation of differences in GPA between ethnic groups.

Admissions policy is not, properly, a cause of differences in academic achievement. As Choi admits, it merely introduces differences to Harvard from society at large--differences which exist there for precisely the deeper reasons which the Indy suggests. Of these reasons, incidentally, I find the "expectations" argument the most plausible. While their families have doubtless had high expectations for all Harvard students, teachers and the mass media tend to convey more discouraging messages to Black and Latino students which are tough to fight past. And of a piece with these low expectations, I must add, are the very statistics which Choi uses to justify the claim that "we" are letting people off the book.

If the roots of differences in achievement predate admission to Harvard, and if all students at Harvard are already working hard (as we seem to be), then what point does harping on the GPA-ethnicity correlations serve? Instead of motivating students to work harder, the emphasis on group averages may merely reinforce their prejudices as to how much they and their classmates can accomplish at Harvard. I hope no one tries to suppress the Indy's statistics, but I also hope to see an end to their use in Crimson editorials which lower expectations in the name of raising them. Andrew J. Baker '94