You Know Who Doesn’t Deserve to be Here?


“You know who doesn’t deserve to be here?”


“Recruited athletes. I mean, it’s great that they can run high, jump far, and dribble a ball pretty well. But I don’t understand what those traits have to do with being a future leader in the world. It’s also not like Harvard is recruiting the best athletes in the country or making a lot of money from athletics. I don’t understand why they get to skate by in admissions with their poor grades.”

“I guess. But if you say that, do you know who also doesn’t deserve to be here?”



“Kids who get in because of their crazy music skills. They’re just like athletes: They have a talent that makes them entertaining, but does that really set them apart as a person who could make a real difference in the world? Just go to Juilliard. Otherwise, you’re gaming the system.”

“Ok, fine. But at least athletes and musicians have a talent. You know who really doesn’t deserve to be here?”


“Those good-for-nothing legacy kids. Some may have talents. But others seem as dumb and untalented as the fifth-place contender of an Elvis impersonation contest. Legacy kids get money, educated parents, and a free ticket here. It’s crazy.”

“But there are other kids who get advantages from birth. You know who really doesn’t deserve to be here?”


“Black students. Not all of them. But the ones from wealthy homes or first-generation African immigrant families. Affirmative action is supposed to promote the nth generation descendants of slaves who lived in poverty. Not the kid in Brookline pulling up to his private school parking lot in a brand new SUV with little TV screens in the back seats playing gangster rap. Harvard is crowded with kids from these kinds of backgrounds who get this application boost for no reason.”

“The tricky part about race is ethnicity. You know who really doesn’t deserve to be here?”


“Jews. I mean, explain me this: Asians have a lot of good applicants to Harvard, but they are hurt by affirmative action. But Jews are even more incredibly overrepresented on this campus—like, every other white guy I meet is on the phone with his worrying grandmother five times a day—and whites don’t get hurt by affirmative action. Why don’t they get the same treatment as Asians?”

“Yeah, but Jewish families are wealthier. Maybe that’s why? I mean, you know who really doesn’t deserve to be here?”


“Wealthy kids. If you’re rich and have half a brain in investing your educational resources, you can basically buy a good SAT score, a good college essay, a good list of internship experiences. Harvard does well in its racial diversity. But only something like 15 percent of Harvard undergraduates come from the bottom 40 percent of U.S. incomes. Harvard is ‘need blind’ in the worst possible way. It’s blind to the needs of smart kids from poor backgrounds. And it’s blind to the advantages of the kids whose greatest life challenge has been fitting into the small back seat of their dad’s sports car.”

“Sure, kids from wealthy families get some advantages. But at least they prove they’re smarter than other applicants from wealthy families. The problem is kids who never have to prove their smarts. So you know who really doesn’t’ deserve to be here?”


“Recruited athletes—”

Shut up. Shut up! SHUT UP! This is getting so petty. The Class of 2020 gets its decision emails today. Is this is how we welcome them? I know, I know. A Harvard degree carries with it a lot of power, so this is an important conversation. But does it have to be so constant and gut-wrenching and non-empirical and anecdotal and personal? Every other article in The Crimson is about this kind of topic. And most of them make claims far beyond what their data can prove—at the cost of threatening peoples’ identity on campus. How do people feel so comfortable talking about the deservingness of others? I can think of 1,000 ways to discount my own identity and admission here. For me, it’s a lot harder to say these things about the peers I’ve come to admire. But people do it, and there’s a price: We feel guilt instead of gratitude, stress instead of satisfaction, and defensive instead of innovative on this campus. It’s so easy to feel that this place is a school of ruthless competition and ire, rather than a home. We need to change that.

“C’mon, Dash! Stop taking things so personally. If you can’t handle this level of critical thought without spinning it into a victimization narrative, then you don’t deserve to be here.”


Dashiell F. Young-Saver ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.


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