Minority Recruitment is Getting Messy

With Prefrosh Weekend looming, minority groups have started their spring scramble to secure hosts for Harvard’s newest admits. It starts

With Prefrosh Weekend looming, minority groups have started their spring scramble to secure hosts for Harvard’s newest admits.

It starts every April, when each of the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program’s (UMRP) five divisions—for African American, Asian American, Latino American, Mexican American, and Native American students—host phone-a-thons to call admitted students.

“At the end of our conversation [with these students] we ask if they’re coming to Prefrosh Weekend, and particularly with the Asian students we ask if they’re interested in being paired with a minority host,” says Mirla Urzua ’07, a coordinator for the Mexican-American division of the UMRP.

“It’s interesting for a lot [of people] to see what is available in terms of cultural initiatives on campus,” says Kate Wang ’07, another UMRP coordinator. “I think having the experience of staying with someone who is familiar with the community lets them see if the atmosphere is something they think would be important.”

Perhaps the phone-a-thons were a little too successful. Cultural groups on campus have been struggling to handle an overflow of requests for minority hosts.

An Association of Black Harvard Women list e-mail asks, “Wanna host a ***black*** prefrosh???”—all six asterisks included. Another, sent over the Chinese Students Association (CSA) mailing list, reads: “URGENT: PLEASE HOST PREFROSH!!” As if this weren’t encouragement enough, another e-mail asks, “Like dogs? Host a prefrosh!” citing several similarities between prospective students and canines. “You don’t have to worry about them much. You can leave them out in the Yard and they’ll still find food and go to the bathroom just fine.” Hosts probably shouldn’t test that theory.

Despite the friendly exuberance and wagging tails of eager prefrosh, Asian Americans had more admitted students and fewer hosts than any other minority group. What’s up with that?

“There’s just a diffusion of responsibility,” says Asian American student Edward H. Thai ’07. “Each person thinks that someone else is going to take care of it.”

Wang cites size and apathy as major factors.

“The community is so large and fragmented that it’s harder to be motivated or concerned about recruiting,” Wang says.

Urzua says of the UMRP’s hosting efforts in general, “This year they’re having a harder time than usual, so they had to decide to be as straightforward as possible.”

Not that minorities are the only apathetic ones. All Harvard students easily forget that they were once helpless little prefrosh, too.

“A symptom of the population in general is that once students get here it seems a little bit difficult for them to remember how they got here,” said Wang.

“Some take it for granted that incoming students will come,” Urzua said.

But recruiters remain optimistic.

“Sometimes we’ve had to extend our hosting deadline but in the end we usually pull through,” Wang said. In case you needed any more convincing, as the CSA e-mail suggests, like dogs, prefrosh are “funny when drunk.”