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White Applicant Says Black Admit Favored

Complaint Charges Reverse Discrimination

By Melissa Lee

Mark Stonecypher is a white male and was salutatorian of John Carroll High School in Birmingham, Ala. His classmate Eugenia Kay Harris is a Black female and was valedictorian.

She got into Harvard but decided on Princeton. He got rejected at Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale and Stanford, and had to settle for Vanderbilt.

Stonecypher and his parents are charging reverse discrimination and have filed a complaint with the Department of Education. The complaint, written by Stonecypher's mother, charges that the College's admissions policy discriminates against white males. It addresses "all Black minority students that applied to Harvard receiving special treatment" and singles out Harris, claiming she had lower standardized test scores and a less rigorous course load than Stonecypher but got in anyway.

"This is racism, not merit," Stonecypher's mother writes in the complaint.

Harris denies Stonecypher's claim that she is less qualified than he is and points to her hefty academic and extracurricular schedule.

The complaint follows controversy last year over the Harvard admissions office's aggressive strategy to draw in Black students which was adopted after Harvard registered only 95 students in the Class of 1996, a record low since 1969. Monday, probably as a result of this additional recruiting, a record 143 Black students registered.

The complaint, filed in April and obtained by The Crimson through the Freedom of Information Act last month, cites as evidence a New York Times article from February 28, 1993, which reported on the College's increased efforts to woo Black students.

The article reported that Black students received special exemptions from Harvard's January 1 application deadline, but admissions officials say that has been a regular practice for several years. They say the intensified recruitment of Black students consisted of a second round of recruitment letters in December in addition to the regular letters sent out after the PSAT in October.

Harris requested her application along with an extension after the admissions deadline, according to Birmingham Harvard Club President Dr. J. Barry Vaughn '78.

"All of the people who come here are fully qualified to be here," says Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67. "We want people to understand that while ethnic background can be one factor that we use...we look at all factors."

There is no formula to gauge whether a student should be admitted or rejected, admissions officials say, and subjective criteria such as extracurricular activities and personal qualities also play a significant role. The Stonecypher complaint takes issue with the soft criteria the admissions office uses, and focuses on the issue of race.

Harris, who first learned of the complaint when The Crimson contacted her last week, defended the strength of her academic record and denied the Stonecypher family's allegations that she took "less strenuous" classes.

"After spending four years with the people in my class, they saw how hard I worked to achieve what I've gotten," says Harris. "It makes me feel as if people are just looking at the color of my skin and not at my achievements."

And what Harris has achieved amounts to a resume packed with extracurriculars and accolades, as well as an academic schedule that resembles that of Stonecypher, Harris says.

Harris says she sang in the school's world-class choir, played on the volleyball team for two years, served on the student council, was president of her church youth group, was a member of the Spanish Club, won the award for best all-round student in her high school, earned a place in the National Honor Society and won the National Achievement award for Outstanding Negroes.

Though their performances on Achievement tests scores are hard to compare because Harris and Stonecypher took tests in different subjects, the gap in their SAT scores was about 100 points, according to both Harris and Leonard J. Nelson, a classmate and friend of Harris and Stonecypher.

The average SAT score for Black students in the Class of 1995 at Harvard was 1290, while the average white student earned a 1400, according to a confidential report compiled by the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, a group of 32 private colleges and universities.

Stonecypher and his parents refused to comment on their case or on whether they filed complaints with the Department of Education against colleges other than Harvard. Yale's Acting Director of Admissions Harry M. Levit refused to comment. Officials at Dartmouth and Stanford did not return phone calls.

"Mark was more studious, but Eugenia was more well-rounded," says Nelson. "I spoke to Mark a week ago...He said he was surprised that a lot of people at Vanderbilt were in his situa- tion--they all had good grades but didn't getinto Ivy League schools."

Nelson says that Harris was not even interestedin applying to any Ivy League institutions untilhe "talked her into it."

According to Vaughn and Tricia Guy, the head ofthe English department at John Carroll High, bothHarris and Stonecypher were strong students whowere qualified for admission to Harvard.

"They are two entirely different kids," saysGuy, who taught both students in AdvancedPlacement English last year. "Stoney," asStonecypher was called by classmates, was an"introvert" while Harris was regarded by herclassmates as a "class leader," Guy says.

Vaughn says both students received "veryfavorable" write-ups from their interviewers. "We[the schools committee] though both would makegood Harvard students," says Vaughn, adding that"it is very rare that we have a stronglyunfavorable reaction" to a candidate.

Vaughn says that there are "not many Blackapplicants" from Alabama and estimates about 10percent of interviewees each year are Black. Thereare efforts by visiting undergraduates andadmissions officers to recruit the few Blackstudents in the area, but that minority status hasno bearing on a candidate's evaluation, Vaughnsays.

Such evaluations, the student's background, andpersonal qualities all contribute to whetheradmissions officials decide one student and notanother will fit their vision for a Harvard class.But this vision has changed dramatically atHarvard in the last 30 years from a predominantlywhite, male Northeastern student body to anethnically and nationally diverse one. And theStonecypher complaint may be the first flashpointin the ongoing story of Harvard's admissions'campaign to keep its reputation as one of the mostdiverse campuses in the country

Nelson says that Harris was not even interestedin applying to any Ivy League institutions untilhe "talked her into it."

According to Vaughn and Tricia Guy, the head ofthe English department at John Carroll High, bothHarris and Stonecypher were strong students whowere qualified for admission to Harvard.

"They are two entirely different kids," saysGuy, who taught both students in AdvancedPlacement English last year. "Stoney," asStonecypher was called by classmates, was an"introvert" while Harris was regarded by herclassmates as a "class leader," Guy says.

Vaughn says both students received "veryfavorable" write-ups from their interviewers. "We[the schools committee] though both would makegood Harvard students," says Vaughn, adding that"it is very rare that we have a stronglyunfavorable reaction" to a candidate.

Vaughn says that there are "not many Blackapplicants" from Alabama and estimates about 10percent of interviewees each year are Black. Thereare efforts by visiting undergraduates andadmissions officers to recruit the few Blackstudents in the area, but that minority status hasno bearing on a candidate's evaluation, Vaughnsays.

Such evaluations, the student's background, andpersonal qualities all contribute to whetheradmissions officials decide one student and notanother will fit their vision for a Harvard class.But this vision has changed dramatically atHarvard in the last 30 years from a predominantlywhite, male Northeastern student body to anethnically and nationally diverse one. And theStonecypher complaint may be the first flashpointin the ongoing story of Harvard's admissions'campaign to keep its reputation as one of the mostdiverse campuses in the country

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