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Recruited Athletes. Legacies. Dean’s List. Children of Faculty and Staff.
Together, this cohort of college applicants form the acronym ALDC, a group whose admission process has come under increased scrutiny — and rightfully so — following the fall of affirmative action. Although these applicants comprise just five percent of the University’s applicant pool, they account for 30 percent of the admitted class. Legacy students and athletes in the Class of 2017, for example, were nine times more likely to gain acceptance to Harvard than the average applicant.
Despite these concerns and the possibility of Harvard doing away with legacy preferences in admissions, Athletic Director Erin McDermott announced that the athlete recruiting practices will remain much the same.
We agree with McDermott to the extent that we find some merit in the current admissions process for recruited athletes. Contrary to our stance on legacy preferences in admissions, we find eliminating athlete preference in admissions imprudent.
Recruited athletes – unlike the legacy, Dean’s List, and children of faculty and staff applicants they are often grouped with – have a unique talent as a reason for their admissions boost. Recruited athletes possess a skill in a sport that is cultivated over time through continuous effort. Their excellence in said sports is made all the more impressive by their ability to balance their academic responsibilities with their demanding training schedules. The talents of our peer athletes add vibrancy to campus life. Harvard, like many colleges, benefits from the school spirit fostered through sports matches. Students come together, taking time away from their classes to cheer on their teams.
However, an acknowledgment of the value athletes add to campus life is hardly grounds for turning a blind eye to how the admissions process unfairly favors recruited athletes. Recruited athletes have an 86 percent chance of getting into Harvard — far greater than the 47 percent for students who are children of faculty and staff, 42 percent for applicants on the dean’s list, 33 percent for legacy applicants, and the dismal six percent for the average applicant.
The composition of the admitted recruited athletes paints an even grimmer picture of the situation. According to The Crimson’s freshman survey, close to 83 percent of athletes in the Class of 2025 are white, yet only 53 percent of the class is white. With 42 D1 intercollegiate varsity teams to recruit for — the most in the country — Harvard finds itself recruiting and eventually admitting athletes who play very niche, resource-intensive sports that all but necessitate an elite wealthy academic environment. Indeed, as of 2019, only 3.2 percent of white admitted athletes can be considered economically disadvantaged. Athletic admissions, as it is, works against efforts made to increase diversity at Harvard in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action.
In light of this, we find McDermott’s comments disappointing and think that Harvard should conduct a thorough review of its athletic admissions policy, including how, where, and why it recruits certain athletes. Harvard should find alternatives to the current process of recruiting and admitting athletes that do not rid us of the opportunity to have athletes in our student body.
Athlete recruitment should be consistent with the College’s values of diversity and opportunity. While athletes’ talents are valuable, so are other extracurriculars. As such, being an excellent athlete should be considered similar to being an exceptional chess player, debater, creative writer, or instrument player. The immense boost given to recruited athletes by virtue of a coach’s preference letter should be minimized and their accomplishments should be weighed just like those of their fellow students.
This is what a truly holistic admissions process would look like. An admission process where an applicant’s background and experience, athletic prowess, academic achievements, and artistic skills boost their chances of admission — not guarantee it.
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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