Blacks and The GSAS

OF THE 521 first year students who entered the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences this fall, 11--or 2 per cent--are black. This figure constitutes a neglible rise in minority enrollment at the graduate school, and lends credence to the notion that its admission policy is still racist. Furthermore, the small number of blacks demonstrates Harvard administrators' flippant attitudes toward their all-too-modest affirmative action plan approved by HEW about one year ago.

In Harvard's plan Walter J. Leonard, the University's affirmative action co-ordinator wrote, "The increase of doctoral candidates is critical and obviously the most effective method in increasing the number of minority and women junior faculty members." It is impossible for Harvard, under the present GSAS admission policy, to fulfill this pledge and committment.

Leonard assured the federal reviewers a year ago that "Harvard is committed to continue and intensify its recruitment efforts." But last spring, Harvard had no organized recruitment program to enlarge the size of the black applicant pool. As a result, the minority applicant pool remained practically identical in size to that of the previous year. GSAS administrators justified the lack of an organized recruitment program by questioning the validity of such programs in general. In addition, several of the graduate school's department chairmen--who are ultimately responsible for admissions--justify the small number of blacks by saying there is a lack of qualified applicants. These cyclical arguments are absurd.

Despite its reservation about so-called "traditional recruitment methods," the GSAS has finally named a minority recruiter. Whether Phillip T. Gay's position is anything more than a bureaucratic label is yet to be seen. Gay himself thinks his job will have little impact on the numbers of blacks admitted to the graduate school. He believes effective recruiting will have to come from individual departments. But, Gay claims, "Some departments have the attitude that every black admitted is a gamble, a risk you have to take by the hand and lead through."

FROM THIS ATTITUDE and from the minuscule percentage of the minority enrollment, it is easy to see why a report Gay recently authored gives him no comfort. The unreleased report shows that blacks at the GSAS take more graded courses per year and receive their Ph.D. degrees more quickly than their white peers. The conclusion Gay has reached is despairing: Black students finish more quickly because they "feel a greater sense of alienation from the environment" than their white counterparts, and black students participate in fewer ungraded tutorials per year than white students because there is a lack of close contact between blacks and their professors.


Gay's assessment is confirmed by the small number of blacks who are enrolled at the GSAS. Harvard has an obligation to prove that it is not the cause of frustration among its black students by admitting more of them to its almost lily white ranks.

Harvard administrators' double-talk about affirmative action plans has now passed the point of playing games with federal reviewers. The present situation is disruptive and dangerous to students' lives.