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The Freshman Outdoor Program's (FOP) guide hiring process this year will aim for ethnic and economic diversity in an effort to battle what some students say is a self-perpetuating pattern of nonrepresentative selections, FOP steering committee members said.
The steering committee elects new members next month, and present members said the quest for ethnic and economic diversity will be a top priority in this year's leader selection and in future fundraising efforts.
"Diversity is something we worry about, both in the steering committee and the FOP pool," said Duncan R. Blair '94, a committee member. It will be at the top of the agenda at a meeting Friday, Blair said.
The steering committee--with more than half a dozen members--is presently all white, and member Caroline M. Mitchell '94 said the committee selects its successors in a "vicious cycle" of self-selection.
Although discrimination is not overt, Mitchell said, membership may be restricted along certain social and ethnic lines through "unconscious" social patterns in the group.
The composition of the FOP participant pool might also account for the lack of ethnic variety on the committee, committee members said. Many FOP leaders and committee members are former participants, and the backgrounds of program veterans do not necessarily reflect Harvard's student body, economically or ethnically.
"Ethnic diversity is definitely a problem, especially in the steering committee," said former committee member Paul A. Dufays '93. "It's difficult because it runs on a trickle-down process where many FOP leaders come from former FOP participants."
Potential participants must apply to join the program, and last year 342 of the 475 applicants were accepted. Steering committee members stress that a variety of factors, none racially biased, determine who gets to go on FOP.
Enthusiasm is the main qualification, said Mitchell.
The election committee also tends to give priority to international students over students from East Coast preparatory schools.
But whatever the criteria, FOP participants tend to be slanted toward the top of the economic spectrum.
The program costs $290 for a week of hiking or rowing, and not all students can afford it.
While 65 percent of Harvard undergraduates are on financial aid, only 35 percent of FOP participants qualify for such aid.
Currently, FOP generates $20,000 in financial aid for students each year. A quarter of this money comes from the College and goes directly to participants who qualify for College financial aid.
The FOP grants are directly proportional to the money students receive for tuition, room and board.
FOP will concentrate on increasing its financial aid resources this year, according to outgoing Director John H. Duvivier. The program now raises about $5,000 a year and hopes to increase its donations from Harvard alumni.
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