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LAST WEEK, the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid reduced the scholarships of 16 students on probation. Since nine of these students are on probation for the Paine Hall sit-in, a large group of supporters went to Holyoke Center to ask Dean Peterson for an explanation. They went away understandably unsatisfied.
Peterson told them that scholarships should in principle be based on financial need only, and that they should be completely dissociated from punishment. But since his Committee's resources are limited, he said, this policy cannot be adhered to. Therefore the Commiteee's policy has been to reduce financial aids to new students. This was the official reason for last week's reductions, which ranged from $200 to $500 per student.
But even if it can be proved that such a reallocation was being made, it is hard to understand the critical importance of the $30,000 to $50,000 saved each year by reductions in the scholarships of students on probation--particularly in view of the Committee's request for a $1.5 million budget for next year. If the scholarship Committee does indeed run a deficit, that can only mean that the Faculty should reconsider the priorities of its budget. Harvard needs to allocate much more money towards the recruitment of students from low-income families. The solution to the scholarship situation is not to be found in miserly quibbling over the tiny amounts of money being withdrawn from students on probation.
The most obvious injustice of the scholarship reduction is that it discriminates against poor students. Economic sanctions are only effective against the minority of Harvard students who cannot finance their own education here. It is unacceptable, on the most elementary grounds of equity, that such discriminatory sanctions be applied.
Both the Faculty and the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aids should act immediately to ensure that scholarships will be administered on the basis of financial need only. The Faculty can do this by approving the needed scholarship funds to cover those on probation, by making scholarships in general an item of higher priority on the budget, and by removing restrictions on scholarships from the rules relating to probation. And the Committee should take advantage of the clause in the probation regulations which allows it to reverse its reduction of scholarships for students on probation.
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