Admissions Office To AAA: No Quotas

Officer Says Ethnicity Just 'Part of Picture'

The Harvard admissions office sets no quotas for Asian-Americans or any other group, an admissions officer said yesterday at a dinnertime discussion in Winthrop House.

Admissions official Lewison Lam' 89 spoke with approximately 30 students at the event, which was sponsored by the political committee of the Asian-American Association.

In response to student questions about the "differential" between admissions rates for different ethnic groups, Lam said that the admissions committee looks at "the individual student's background" when making its decisions.

"Ethnicity and race is part of that can be a positive factor," he said. "We don't accept the group, we accept the individual applicant."

In 1990, following an extensive investigation, the Department of Education concluded that Harvard's admissions process was not quota-based. It did find that Asian-Americans were admitted at a lower rate than other groups, but only because legacies and athletes received preferential "tips."


Responding to a student question about recruitment, Lam said the emphasis for all groups is "on working-class and blue collar families." For Asian-Americans, he said, "part of the effort is to diversify the diversity of Asian-American groups."

For instance, he said, Filipinos are underrepresented proportional to their numbers within the Asian-American community.

Another student asked if a student's ethnicity could make admission more or less likely.

Lam said that students are judged in a common pool and that to do otherwise would be "illegal and immoral."

This fall saw a dramatic drop in the number of African-American students in the entering first-year class, a fact which has brought issues of minority admissions into the spotlight once again.

Lam said that the drop in African-American enrollment was due to a decreased yield for Black students rather than fewer admittals. The Asian-American yield this year, 80 percent, was higher than that for Harvard as a whole, and Asian-Americans are strongly represented in the Class of '96, he said.

The AAA event also followed an exchange about Asian-American admissions on TheCrimson's editorial page between Daniel H. Choi'93, a Crimson staff writer, and Amy C. Tang '94,co-chair of the AAA Political Committee.

Choi's piece argued that "it makes little senseto blame Harvard for the under-representation" ofsome minority groups on campus and gavesocio-economic explanations for Asian-Americans'relatively high representation here.

Tang said in her response that "there are amultitude of...reasons why the University shouldpursue diversity amongst its applicants."

She also noted that Asian-Americansocio-economic situations vary greatly.

Both writers were present at last night'sdiscussion and both said they were glad it hadoccurred.

"I hoped that having Lewison here would helpclarify a lot" about the admissions process, saidTang