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Two Stories of Minority Admissions

Recruiting in The Barrios

By Joseph L. Contreras

Were it not for the new equal access policy and the resulting 1.9:1 sex ratio, the large crop of Chicanos admitted to next year's class would have been the success story of the class of 1980. Byerly Hall admitted 32 Chicanos to next year's freshman class, nearly double the 18 accepted last year, and the largest number of Mexican-Americans ever admitted. These totals are the product of an intense recruitment effort that was unique in many ways, most notably the role undergraduates played in it.

"This year was by far the best recruitment year ever for us," Frank Garcia '76 says and he should know. As president of RAZA (the campus Chicano organization), Garcia supervised the entire operation from beginning to end, drawing up the original budget proposals for the recruitment program, signing up Chicanos here for trips to targeted areas in the Southwest last fall, and lobbying for the admission of individual applicants.

The figures invite a certain amount of back patting among all involved parties including Chicano activists, admissions officials, and the administration. Harvard has now established itself as an attractive college for Chicano high school seniors. Specific areas and high schools are becoming reliable sources of applicants, promising a solid pool of Chicano students that Harvard can always draw upon.

But the figures may mislead, for behind them is another story: frustrating hassles with admissions officials over budgets, a questionable degree of commitment by Harvard, and a need for reform of the entire recruitment process. The treatment of these problems may well determine whether the high number of Chicanos in the class is part of a trend or little more than an aberration.

Separated from the barrios of Los Angeles and San Antonio and the strife-ridden fields of the San Joaquin Valley by 3000 miles, politicized Chicanos encounter a dilemna at Harvard--the absence of issues that directly concern their community. While some RAZA members do participate in UFW-sponsored pickets of local supermarkets, the organization has chosen to focus its energies on recruiting to expand the size of the Chicano community on campus.

The year-long process begins in the early fall when RAZA officials submit the annual budget for recruitment to Byerly Hall. Then the hassles begin. "We have to justify our budget each year to the admissions office," Garcia says, and he points to the delay produced by the present system. "You can't get started until you get the funds, and it took us a long time this year."

The original recruitment budget RAZA submitted this fall called for $7000 to cover traveling and food expenses that the student recruiters incur during the week-long visits to high schools in California and the Southwest. Garcia's proposal would have sent 12 Chicano undergrads to 11 targeted areas (the Los Angeles area required two recruiters in Garcia's judgment). Byerly Hall balked; by the time the haggling ended, the budget had been nearly halved to $3600, and three areas--San Antonio, Tex., Denver, Colo., and San Diego, Calif.--entirely omitted from the scope of the recruitment effort.

The attitude of the admissions office can be illustrated by the case of Los Angeles. A steady source of Mexican-American students for Harvard in past years, Los Angeles and its suburbs contain 36 high schools with Chicano populations exceeding 50 per cent, Garcia says.

But the admissions office viewed the matter otherwise. "Jewett [L. Fred Jewett '57, Harvard-Radcliffe dean of admissions and financial aid] claimed that L. A. should be cut out completely because he had already sent two admissions officials there," Garcia says. But only two of the high schools covered by the officials--Montebello and Loyola, a Jesuit school--had predominantly Chicano populations. The compromise that ultimately emerged: one student recruiter would be funded by the admissions office in Los Angeles, and Garcia had to raise private contributions from individual Chicano undergrads to pay for the $300 plane fare.

Garcia finally won approval of the revised budget in early November, and the operation now entered its second phase--the face-to-face recruitment of Chicano seniors in Sunbelt high school, conducted shortly before Thanksgiving. For many Chicanos who volunteered to make the trips out west, the experience involved several hardships. The group visited four or five high schools each day for seven days. There was no studying and there were no wages. Viola Canales '79, who recruited in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas says "when I went down to the valley, it was no vacation."

Yet Garcia appears relatively satisfied with the recruitment system in its present structure. Student recruitment is more effective than alumni efforts, he argues, adding that "students can talk to each other on a peer level." Jewett concurs, saying "The students' activities have in fact increased the number of applicants. Places where students have travelled have produced more applications."

Chicanos are most vocal in their criticism regarding the third phase of the process--the actual admission of Chicanos. Calls for institutionalization of the system always focus on one specific demand, the hiring of a full-time Chicano admissions official. Harvard has only chosen to hire Esteban Arrequin, a third-year student at the School of Education, as an assistant to the Committee on Admissions. While Arrequin does exercise a vote on each Chicano applicant, he is the first to acknowledge the inadequacy of Harvard's gesture. Arrequin works on a part-time basis at. Byerly Hall, spending 15-20 hours a week on applications during the winter. "There should be a full-time Chicano admissions official. A part-timer will have a certain input, but that just doesn't do the trick," Arrequin says.

Jewett recognizes the need, but nonetheless defends the admissions proceedings. "We haven't hired any admissions personnel this year, due to the merger of the two admissions offices," he says, adding "when we've had openings in the past, we've never had a Chicano applicant. Hiring Arrequin on a part-time basis was the best available alternative."

To many, the issue of a full-time Chicano admissions official may seem a peripheral one; but the Yale administration doesn't think so. Yale's commitment to the Chicano community has always served as the model among the Ivies. Consuelo Gaytan has worked in the admissions office for several years, and is presently director of transfer admissions and Yolanda Gonzalez is the assistant to the dean of student affairs. The college offers courses in Chicano history and literature, both taught by Chicano faculty members. And Yale provides its Chicanos with approximately $10,000 each year for recruitment efforts, a speakers' forum featuring prominent Chicano figures such as UFW's Dolores Huerta, and the expenses of an exclusively Chicano dormitory.

Compare all this with Harvard: no Chicanos in the faculty, the administration, except Arrequin, no courses offered on the Chicano community and no facilities set aside for its Mexican-Americans. The differences shows in the Chicano population; 110 Chicanos are pursuing their undergraduate studies in New Haven, as opposed to 62 in the College.

Jewett is frank about this area. He says "there is no question that in the area of Chicano recruitment, they [Yale] have done a better job of recruiting than any other Ivy school."

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