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The Chief of Staff for University President Drew G. Faust wrote in a letter to the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda that Harvard Law School will not reserve spots for students from the country as compensation for a 19th century Harvard donor’s ownership of Antiguan slaves.
Last month, inspired by Georgetown University’s decision to grant preferred admission status to the descendants of its former slaves, the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, sent a letter to Faust calling on Harvard to adopt a similar program. Sanders proposed that Harvard provide benefits to Antiguans and Barbudans, including annual scholarships to the Law School. In a Nov. 3 letter, Faust's Chief of Staff Lars P.K. Madsen responded that the University’s admissions policy does not allow such preferential treatment.
“The admissions committee does not have quotas of any kind whether they be ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic, or any other factor one might consider in admissions,” Madsen wrote.
In his original October letter, Sanders argued that Antiguan and Barbudan slave labor helped establish Harvard Law School. A 19th-century bequest by Isaac Royall, Jr. established a professorship of law at Harvard in 1815—the beginning of a law department that eventually evolved into the Law School. Royall’s owned slaves at farms in Massachusetts and a sugar plantation in Antigua, which was the source of his wealth.
In his response to Sanders, Madsen defended the University’s commitment to diversity in its admissions process and outlined the College’s and Law School’s need-based financial aid programs. While encouraging people from Antigua and Barbuda to apply, Madsen wrote that admissions officers do not offer geographical preferences to candidates.
“Geography is not a major factor in the committee’s admissions decisions, but you may be interested to know that we extensively recruit students from diverse areas of the world, including from Caribbean nations,” he wrote. “Having outlined these policies for your information, it is my sincere hope, which I know is shared by both President Faust and Dean Minow, that qualified students from Antigua and Barbuda, and from the Caribbean region, will continue to apply to Harvard College, to Harvard Law School, and to our other academic units.”
Madsen also outlined a series of steps the University has already taken to confront its historic connections to slavery, including the creation of a plaque for the four slaves who worked at Harvard and the removal of the Law School’s seal—formerly the Royall family crest.
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