The following article was written by Tony Butler '80, Gail Dunbar '80, Ruben Medina '79 and Felix Torres '79, all of whom have worked in the admissions office recruiting minority students. Several other Third World Harvard students gave their advice and criticisms to the authors.
Minority recruitment and admissions have always been disputed issues, and last month's Crimson article, "Minority Admissions--Still a Ways to Go," pointed out a very sad fact--that Third World students have not taken the initiative to express themselves on issues pertaining to the Third World community at Harvard and around the country.
It is time for Third World students to publicly express their views on issues that are crucial to the survival of the Third World student community and to re-establishment of communications between various Third World communities in the Boston area and the entire nation. For too long students have been victims of Harvard's racist policies pertaining to Third World admissions. The ramifications of the Bakke case have done such irreparable damage to Third World recruitment and admissions that we can no longer shut our eyes and pretend it is not there.
Minority recruitment and admissions have had a brief history at Harvard. Due mainly to the struggles of Third World and other progressive people during the '60s, the nation was forced to realize it could no longer condone the exploitation of its citizens of color. Harvard, too, was affected by this movement. In the fall of 1968, black students at Harvard demanded an increase in the number of black students admitted, and the right to recruit in Third World communities in hopes of increasing the working class Third World population, a group hitherto ignored.
While it is true that Harvard occasionally admitted outstanding Third World scholars such as Don Pedro Albizu Campos and W.E.B. DuBois, these had been too few and far between.
Harvard is an elitist institution. One of the manifestations of its elitism has always been racism. This racism is evident in the way Harvard has dealt with minority recruitment and admissions, as well as all other matters concerning Third World people. It is reflected in the negligible size of the minority student community here, as compared to the white community.
Harvard's attempts to appease Third World people have always come in the form of superficial concessions, which have left the problem largely unsolved. Even then every concession which has been made has come as the result of a long and hard struggle with the University. Harvard has never demonstrated a true interest in increasing the number of Third World students on campus. The first substantial increase in the number of black students came in the fall of 1969, as a result of demands placed on Harvard by black students in the spring of 1968.
The minority student recruitment program also began at this time, when black students began making trips to predominantly black high schools. Between 1969 and 1973 black student recruitment had expanded to include high schools all over the country. During the same period, Harvard hired three black admissions officers. This also came about as the result of student struggle and pressure on the Harvard administration. Ironically enough, these three black admissions officers were used by the admissions office to justify the discontinuation of recruitment by black students. This assertion was of course ridiculous, as the black admissions officers numbered three out of a staff of 20 and were not allowed to focus exclusively on increasing black(or any Third World) admissions.
How could three people effectively and with due consideration visit their assigned areas; read hundreds of applications and assess them; recruit in all the major black communities; present candidates' cases before the admissions committee; lend support and help all student recruitment efforts; lead a personal life; and maintain their sanity at the same time? It was clear to the students that this type of tokenism was being used by Harvard to undermine the Third World recruitment effort. The perseverance of Black students in questioning this force resulted in the rein-statement of black student recruitment in 1977.
In 1970 eight Puerto Rican students (the entire Puerto Rican population at Harvard at that time) had walked into the dean of admissions' office and demanded that more Puerto Rican students be accepted into the College. This resulted in the establishment of the Puerto Rican sector of student recruitment. In 1973 the Chicano recruitment program was established, also with the pressure of students.
Again, tokenism characterizes Hispanic student recruitment. It was apparent in the hiring of "Latin" assistant admissions officers. These officers, one Chicano and one Puerto Rican, did over 40 hours of work while only getting paid for 15 of them. At the same time, these officers were full-time graduate students, and although they were working in the capacity of admissions officers, they were not allowed a vote on the admissions committee.
Native Americans proved vulnerable to Harvard's racist policies in an easier fashion. The small Indian population in the U.S. has limited political force, and it affects the American elite even less. The affirmative action laws and statutes could not force Harvard to advance to even a token position in this instance. The present Native American population in the University still reflects this sad fact.
Harvard also broke the law in regards to Asian-Americans. The history of Asian-Americans is one of an oppressed minority. One need only recall the conditions of intense discrimination and cruelty under which they helped build the West, or the living conditions of many inner city Asians today to see this. Title VI, Chapter 60 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognized Asian-Americans as a minority group--but Harvard didn't. It was only after a contested struggle by Asian-American students on campus that minority status was granted them.
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