Admissions Deans Deny Kilson Claims

The deans of the Harvard and Radcliffe admissions offices have sent a letter to The New York Times Magazine charging that there are "serious distortions" in a recent Times article on blacks at Harvard by Martin L. Kilson, professor of Government.

The letter--signed by L. Fred Jewett '57, dean of Admissions and Financial Aids, and Alberta Arthurs, dean of Admissions, Financial Aids and Women's Education at Radcliffe--charges that Kilson's conclusions "are far too negative in tone and simply fail to fit the facts."

Kilson has written a reply to the letter, calling it "fatuous and disingenuous."

The Times will print the letter and reply on October 13 or possibly later, Barbara Dubisky, a Times Magazine editor, said yesterday.

In his article, Kilson criticized the admissions office for favoring low-income "ghetto" blacks over "better-prepared" middle class blacks in its selection process, and thereby causing an unusually low level of academic achievement among black students here.


The Jewett-Arthurs letter stated that "probably 75 per cent or more" of Harvard's black students come from middleclass backgrounds and that "those few students who are admitted here from poorer backgrounds tend to outperform their more traditionally prepared classmates."

Other Critics

Jewett and Arthurs also joined several other critics of the Kilson article--including the Harvard Afro-American Students' Association and the dean of the College at Princeton University--in disputing the accuracy of some of the statistics Kilson quoted.

The two deans said that 52 per cent of the blacks at Harvard have grades in Group III or above, while Kilson placed the figure at 48 per cent. Kilson said yesterday that he used the percentage for the 1971-72 academic year while Jewett and Arthurs used the 1972-73 figure.

"It's not so much Kilson's factual information that I object to," Jewett said yesterday, "as his interpretations and conclusions, though I don't know where he got some of his figures. I though some of his statements about the percentage of middle class blacks were off."

Jewett and Arthurs also cited the median verbal SAT score of entering black students at Harvard this year--605--as proof that black students here are "extraordinarily talented." However, Kilson replied that the SAT median for whites is "eighty to 100-plus points higher."

Kilson called Jewett and Arthurs "compulsively patronizing to blacks," and he added, "God save us from our so-called white friends."

Kilson also said that the two deans "know well that it is an open secret at Harvard that a number of younger white faculty apply double [weaker] standards to academically deficient Negro students from low income homes, hoping to expiate the guilt of white racism."

The Times printed two letters criticizing Kilson's article last Sunday, and will print two more tomorrow: one from Bob Higgins, a black author, and another from the executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee.

A Times Magazine staff member said yesterday that the Magazine had checked the factual information Kilson used in the article.