The University has the highest percentage of black students among Ivy League schools, according to a recent study by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
In 1996, black students comprised 7.2 percent of the Harvard student body--up 38.5 percent from 1980 when, among the Ivy League schools, only Cornell University had a lower percentage.
College officials said the percentage remains about the same in 1998.
Dionne A. Fraser '99, president of the Black Students Association (BSA), expressed surprise that Harvard tops the list of Ivy League schools but said percentages do not indicate the strength of the black community on campus.
"I'm not as much concerned about the percentage of black students as about how...aware the black community is politically and socially and culturally," Fraser said.
The article published in the Journal's summer issue, is based on Department of Education statistics.
It concludes that Cornell, with a student body that is 4.2 percent black, still has the lowest percentage of black students in the Ivy League.
Yale University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania also have higher percentages of blacks in their student bodies than in 1980.
The increases at Ivy League universities are reflective of rises in black enrollment at universities around the country. The numbers of black students at 26 of the 50 highest ranked universities and liberal arts colleges increased by 10 percent or more from 1980 to 1996.
Emory University in Atlanta, which as late as 1967 had not graduated a single black student, now has the highest percentage of black students of the 50 top academic universities.
In 1980, 3 percent of Emory's students were black. That number has risen to 17.2 percent.
Robert B. Slater, managing editor of the Journal, said the competition for talented black applicants is heavy and Harvard has "done a better job of attracting them because of its reputation."
Slater cited the Afro-American Studies department as one of several aspects of the University that is attractive to prospective black students.
Director of Admissions for Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges Marlyn McGrath Lewis '70 said Harvard makes an effort to encourage students "who might otherwisewrite us off in some way" to come to theUniversity, but does not admit students based onrace.
Slater said Harvard's appeal, as well as theintegration of once-segregated Southernuniversities, have made it difficult for otherschools to retain many black students.
"Many of the institutions that were pioneers indiversifying their campuses, such as Dartmouth,Northwestern and Brown, have not been able tomaintain black enrollment levels because ofincreased competition," the article said.
Officials at other universities questioned themeaning of the statistics.
Dartmouth spokesperson Nancy P. Serrell saidthe loss of a few students dramatically affectsthe percentages because of the college's smallstudent body of about 5,000.
Dartmouth sustained the largest percentage dropin the Ivy League from 1980 to 1996, from 7.7percent to 5.5 percent