Harvard Releases Comment Sheets

The Harvard Admissions Office has released the application summary sheets of several students who requested them, the students said this week.

Students received letters over spring break saying that they could review their summary sheets, although information based on teacher recommendations would be deleted.

The move follows a decision by the Department of Education requiring Harvard to release the documents, which contain admissions officers' candid written comments about applicants.

That ruling, by the Department's Family Policy Compliance Office, came in response to a complaint by former Crimson editor Joshua A. Gerstein '91.

Gerstein filed the complaint under the federalFamily Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)when his request to see his summary sheets wasdenied by the Admissions Office early last year onthe grounds that the documents are confidential.

Gerstein applauded the release of the documentsthis week and said that admissions offices must beheld accountable for their comments.


"Admissions offices really have a lot of powerand they prefer to operate in secret," Gersteinsaid. "Basically what we're saying is that peoplewho have that much power who get to make majordecisions not only that affect students' lives butthat affect the character of the University haveto be held publicly accountable. The colleges areoften very uncomfortable with that for reasonsthat are very unclear."

The release of the sheets comes after theAdmissions Office's announcement two weeks agothat it had destroyed the summary sheets of somestudents as part of a longstanding policy ofshredding the documents three years after anapplicant's admission.

At that time, several students said they weresuspicious of the office's failure to provide thesheets.

But students who received the summaries saidthis week that they were pleased to be able toview them.

"I was very glad to obtain it," said Crimsoneditor Ira E. Stoll '94. "It was verycomplimentary."

Disappointing Content

Some students said, however, that they weredisappointed with the documents' content.

"It boiled down my entire application into twosentences and a number [rating]," said Crimsoneditor Bader A. el-Jean '95. "If that's what theadmissions officers look at when they look at myapplication, then that's a disappointment."

One student said her comment sheets containedmistakes about her application.

Crimson editor Beth L. Pinsker '93--who wroteher application essay about an exchange programthat took her to Belgium--said her reviewerassumed she learned Flemish while overseas.