Dr. Bernard D. Davis told a reporter last week that he objected to widespread delusion that Medical School programs, after drastically stepping up admission of minority students eight years ago, are going well.
"They are not," he confided, "but nobody knows it."
So, to spread the word in hopes that Medical School officials would hop on his bandwagon to urge reevaluation of their standards for admission and graduation, he published his recommendations in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
But as media is wont to do with potentially controversial material, it picked up Davis's views, exposed them to the public, and parked furor, causing Davis to regret his role in the whole affair.
"Had I any inkling the article would get the attention it did, I would never have printed it in the first place," Davis said last night, near the close of a grueling week of personal attacks, demonstrations, and intemperate accusations aimed at him.
Davis's assumption that his "naivete" in dealing with the press is solely responsible for all the press is solely responsible for all the rancor and ado his published statements has caused, is shortsighted considering the status and respectability of those incensed by his remarks.
President Bok came forward to volunteer a rare public statement, fervidly rejecting Davis's allegations regarding some minority students dubious qualifications to earn an M.D. degree. Sources close to Bok say that he was personally bothered by Davis's remarks, and that the implications they have for all minority students are inappropriate and unfair.
Dean Robert Ebert of the Med School termed Davis's contention that the Med School has diminished din quality "irresponsible" and said each Harvard Medical School graduate--minority and otherwise--has successfully met the School's rigorous demands and has the confidence vote of the faculty.
The most recent denouncement of Davis's allegations came yesterday in a statement from the seven chairmen of the Med School's preclinical departments, dissociating themselves and their departments from the "unsubstantiated and damaging" statements made by Davis in the medical journal.
The culmination of the week's ruckus, at which the Bok and Ebert statements were delivered, was a rally on the steps of the Med School's administration building. About 250 people gathered to hear speeches from black medical students and to address broader issues of racism in medicine and society.
"If these minority students are substandard," Alvin Poussaint, associate dean of student affairs said, referring to the 5 to 10 Harvard Med students who failed part I of last year's National Medical Boards, "then white students are also substandard, and we ought to close Harvard Medical School."
But for now, while Harvard Med School is open and appears it will remain so for some time, Davis wishes to correct an erroneous impression that "any statements I have ever made have any implication for the performance, when he says in writing it is cruel to admit to med school students with a low probability of measuring up, he says he is not referring only to minority students.
To clarify his position further, Davis said he will today release a prepared statement with what he said will be some apologies and explanations.