In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., high school students around the country have been protesting in support of stricter gun safety laws, in many cases staging walkouts to express their positions. On Friday, College spokesperson Rachael Dane offered a statement confirming, “Those who engage responsibly in exercising their rights and freedoms would not have their chances of admission compromised.” The College released the statement Monday, in slightly modified form, on its website.
We commend Harvard for making a statement during this politically tense time that affirms the administration’s support for students choosing to exercise their constitutional rights. At the same time, the College could and should have taken the opportunity to explicitly praise the peaceful, constructive nature of the protests its would-be students are undertaking, as this kind of civic engagement reflects well on the applicants involved.
As an admissions body, the role of the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is to determine who will be most suited to life at the College and who will contribute to the community in the most meaningful ways. When considering an individual’s history of protest as relevant to admissions, the manner in which applicants are civically engaged should be the issue at hand, not the ideological beliefs behind the protest.
Applying to college can be a stressful process, during which applicants can feel scrutinized. Feeling a need to perform for picky observers can make people put aside their individuality and ideals in pursuit of an idealized image of perfection. In order to dispel this idea to make applicants understand that precisely what makes them most attractive to the College are their principles, their willingness to be engaged, and their individuality, the College admissions office should have been more public about its position on this matter. It could have followed the lead of many other schools by using social media to share its stance, for instance.
Nevertheless, the admissions office was right to not explicitly siding with the protests, unlike an officer in its Yale counterpart. By not endorsing a specific ideological stance, the admissions office successfully walked the line in condoning respectful protest without ostracizing those prospective applicants who may not share a stance with those protesting.
There are times when Harvard as an institution must take a stand on a political issue. However, the College’s admissions office rarely need do so. Almost always, if the administration were to take a stand on a political issue, it would be problematic to make admissions decisions based on students’ positions on the matter.
For these reasons, we’re glad Harvard made a statement clarifying the College’s admissions policy concerning peaceful, civil protests of any ideological stripe. We hope that high school students will take the statement at its word and freely pursue civically engaged lives without fear of admissions consequences.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It 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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