With anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions’s lawsuit against Harvard underway, court documents demonstrated last week that Harvard, in order to attract a more geographically diverse student body, sends interest letters to students from rural “sparse country” with PSAT scores lower than the usual threshold to receive such letters. However, Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons testified that this threshold is not lowered for Asian Americans. While we affirm the importance of geographical diversity in Harvard’s admissions, we would be remiss not to underscore the interrelatedness between geography, racial, and socioeconomic diversity.
Harvard is going through a difficult time defending affirmative action as an important practice that creates a diverse environment on Harvard’s campus. The admissions process is by no means perfect, and one issue lies in the aforementioned way in which Harvard recruits rural students to apply to the College.
In that vein, the College must change its practices with respect to recruitment of students from “sparse country.” Part of its mission is to encourage intellectual transformation by having students live in a diverse environment with people from various backgrounds and with different identities, and diversity is multifaceted. Therefore, if Harvard wants to create a truly diverse college community, it must not sacrifice some forms of diversity for others. In this case, Harvard has sacrificed racial and socioeconomic diversity for geographic diversity. Indeed, the Admissions Office’s use of lower standards when sending interest letters to white students from rural states unfairly benefitted those students at the expense of rural students from minority races and lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Though we uphold our standing behind the Admissions Office in its support of affirmative action, its diversity search leaves much room for improvement. To maintain its integrity, the Admissions Office must stop attempting to cram many different backgrounds and ideas into a very small number of boxes to tick, as it belittles the entire process as well as the students that work hard to be competitive applicants.
We would like to see Harvard continue its efforts to make the campus a truly inclusive space. In order to do so, the College should actively address such problems and make the admissions process more equitable. As a result, the Admissions Office should change its approach to this particular diversity search, however well-intentioned it may be. Harvard should critically analyze its scouting processes to minimize bias and ensure the comprehensive evaluation of every prospective student. In sum, the Admissions Office should not use one form of diversity to belittle another. Students deserve better than that.
This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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