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College admissions departments discriminate against overweight applicants, Jean Mayer, president of Tufts University, told a conference of Tufts alumni this weekend.
Mayer, an authority on nutrition, said yesterday a study he conducted at Radcliffe and Wellesley showed that overweight women are one third as likely to be admitted as women of average weight, despite comparable grades, board scores and recommendations.
Overweight men faced less discrimination, but still have only two-thirds the normal chance of being admitted, Mayer said. Although the study was done in the 1960s, he believes the results are still valid, he said.
The discrimination is a result of a negative impression overweight people tend to make on interviewers, Mayer said. In colleges like Berkeley which do not interview applicants, there is no discrimination, he added.
Mary Anne Schwalbe, director of admissions at Harvard, said yesterday she was not aware of any discrimination, adding that she believes obesity would not be a factor in admissions unless it affected mental health.
Since half of the Harvard interviewers are women, negative reaction to physical appearance would be unlikely to result in discrimination against overweight women, she said.
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