Worlds Apart: Why Harvard and the South Don't Get Along

The first time C. Jonathan Gattman '03 returned home to Florence, Ala. after enrolling at Harvard, people asked him if he had "started to turn pinko."

His friends wanted to know what the Kremlin on the Charles was really like. "Is it a bunch of rich, preppy kids?" they asked.

Gattman is a rarity in Florence--he is the first student from Wilson High School to attend an Ivy League college. The valedictorian of his class went to Mississippi State.

But he's a rarity at Harvard, too--his conservative Southern background places him in the College's ideological minority.

The gap between Cambridge and Florence demonstrates why the College sees relatively few Southerners.

There are certainly students outside the Ivy-lined Northeast who could get in to prestigious schools such as Harvard. But Gattman and others say that deeply rooted cultural traditions combined with Harvard's reputation for liberalism keep many of these students from heading North for college.

While Gattman traverses a cultural chasm every time he flies home for break, many Southern students aren't willing to make the trip north in the first place.

"There are people around there who are qualified who don't apply because they view it as a really liberal school and not as religious as one they'd like to attend," he says.