Minority Representatives Assail Letter, Cite Bok's Lack of Specific Suggestions

Third World student group representatives yesterday sharply criticized President Bok's open letter on race issues at Harvard, saying he did not adequately describe the University's specific role in addressing the needs of minorities.

Bok's open letter, released late last week, is divided into sections on admissions, race relations and affirmative action. The Third World representatives raised particular objections to each.

Bok devoted the portion of his letter on admissions to the subject of prior grades and test scores as entrance criteria. The discussion stemmed from a request last fall from minority student organizations to clarify his stance on a controversial preliminary report on Harvard admissions, prepared by Robert E. Klitgaard '68, special assistant to Bok.

That study suggested that high test scores may overpredict the academic performance of minorities and women, and Third World students had asked Bok to disavow the report.

But Penny Marshall, president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA), said last night that Bok in his open letter, "does not address or disavow the findings of Klitgaard, and we are concerned about that."


Lydia P. Jackson '82, president of the undergraduate Black Students Association (BSA), said Bok's willingness to write the letter "represents a positive step, but there are some inadequacies in his statement, especially in his refusal to disclaim the Klitgaard report."

Jackson added that "the priority for admitting minorities should not be the contribution they can make to the diversity of the University, but the contribution they can make to society when they graduate."

In the letter, Bok stressed the value of diversity in defending the propriety of affirmative action programs to increase minority enrollment.

Jane Bock '81, former president of the Asian-American Students Association, objected to a comment Bok included on Asian-American admissions. "He misrepresents the history and status of Asians in this country and how affirmative action evolved for Asians here," she said.

In a footnote to his letter, Bok stated, "Although universities have also admitted increasing numbers of Asian-Americans, such students have been enrolled in numbers that exceed their proportion of the national population without raising the policy issues discussed in this paper."

Bock, a member of the Third World Center organization stated, "The number of Asians admitted has doubled in the last three years, and Bok is well aware that the issues were the same as for Blacks and that the increase came about because of student activism."

Several Third World students strongly criticized what they called Bok's "vague and insufficient" support for the recently proposed Foundation to improve race relations at the University.

LeRoy A. Collins '81, who served as a student representative on the Gomes committee which recommended the Foundation's establishment, said "Bok said he was going to stand behind this thing, and now he's trying to deny the basis of our proposal."

In his letter, Bok stated he "will advocate support for" the Foundation, "if, there is genuine interest in this project." He adds that he will advocate support "modestly" at first but "more substantially over time if the effort attracts sustained commitment and achieves concrete results."

"People have been asking for a Third World center for ten years and have invested much of their time developing the idea. That seems to me to be 'genuine interest," Collins said.