Harvard Material

By Lloyd Graff

The recent Kavanaugh spectacle enthralled me as much as any big sports event. It really was the Super Bowl of Senate pillow fights, and I loved it.

Now we have another fascinating slugfest shaping up in Federal Court. It’s Harvard, Yale and MIT against the Asian kids and parents who want to break down the admissions barricades. Harvard and buddies in the Ivy League are fighting fiercely to uphold their right to handpick their Freshman class of 2,000 or so students. They want the right make their schools look how they like. Can you blame them? They are their schools, aren’t they?

Oh, if life were that simple.

Harvard, Yale and MIT are all private institutions, but they are the place Presidents come from, and Presidents want their kids to go there. It ain’t so easy to tell Barack and Michelle that daughter Malia did not make the cut. How about Ann Arbor instead?

Students Protesting Harvard’s Discrimination of Asian Applicants. Courtesy of xinhuanet.com.

According to some sources many other elite schools have higher average test scores than Harvard because Harvard takes into account other factors besides grades. Harvard took Malia Obama. It accepted George W. Bush to business school, a likable “C” student. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, got into Harvard after the Kushner family pledged several million bucks to its endowment fund.

Life isn’t fair and neither is Harvard, but the hard question is “What is fair?”

Harvard thinks it should be able to take a terrific athlete who is a smart kid but no genius. It wants to be able to take a Mark Zuckerberg, son of a Jewish dentist in New Jersey, because he is a go-getter and has some special qualities. Harvard wants some African American kids in the class, whether they have perfect SAT numbers or not. The school has an almost equal number of female and male students while the national average of women in undergrad universities in 2017 was 56% according to The Atlantic. Is Harvard so wrong about putting together a more gender balanced class with a mix of rich kids, go-getters and jocks?

Way back in the day when I applied to college I knew that Northwestern had a Jewish quota, and it annoyed me when they rejected me probably because of my religion.

So it hits close to home when Harvard has a big donors slot, an athlete’s category and a “we can’t take too many Chinese and Indian kids policy” with the rationale that we might miss a Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

In California, at an elite school like Caltech, the last Freshman class had 43% Asian students, but who’s counting? They take a more colorblind approach as a public university.

There is no perfect system of admission to a college like Harvard. The Crimson reported in March of 2018 that Harvard that accepted 1,962 of 42,749 students for its class of 2022. I really do sympathize with school’s dilemma. How do you turn down a charming, African American President’s daughter even if her test scores were not as high as an Indian kid from Louisville? The even harder question — should they? Malia Obama, with her name and upbringing may have a greater opportunity to change the world and bring positive feedback to Harvard than a kid who will probably become a chemistry professor.

The Justice Department is lining up against Harvard, MIT and Yale in this case. Is it correct from a public policy standpoint? I don’t know.

That’s why I’m really interested in what you folks think. Should test scores be the primary criterion for admission to the Harvard student body? Does Harvard or a business have the right to discriminate by body type or the quality of a smile? One day Brett Kavanaugh, Yale and Harvard Law Alumnus, may be the deciding vote on the outcome of this case.

Question: Should Harvard be able to take the students it wants?

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12 thoughts on “Harvard Material

  1. AvatarMark

    There’s an easy solution, make it blind. Take name and race off the application, no photos. Use the same criteria for all applicants. That way the best applicants get accepted regardless of race, appearance, etc.

    1. AvatarAnother Canuck

      I made a comment some time ago about the States’ racial problem. Here, once again, is a glaring example of how Americans continue to ingrain & practice racism in their day to day lives.
      Why do you have the question of race on any application? Whether it be for voting, driver’s licence, University admission or anything? What purpose, other than racism, would asking that question serve? It just appears that you want to keep racism as part of your culture.

  2. AvatarMisterchipster

    In a private school they should be able to discriminate, after all it’s private. Public schools should have a blind entrance criteria, after all they are public. The determiner should be who funds it.

  3. Avatarr in nyc

    Although Harvard and others are private, most receive lots of federal funding.
    If you are purposely discriminating then we should all be able to discriminate, and not demand Christians bake gay wedding cakes or Muslim caterers provide pork ribs.
    And perhaps we could go back to the good ole’ days and bring back water fountains for “whites only” and water fountains for “others”…

    Would it be so nice if we were to judge a person by the content of character rather than the colour of ones’ skin ???

    “Malia Obama, with her name and upbringing may have a greater opportunity to change the world and bring positive feedback to Harvard than a kid who will probably become a chemistry professor.” – Lloyd Graff

    And what will Malia do? Perhaps get a six figure no-show job like Chelsea Clinton in return for access and influence with her parents?
    IMHO – not saving the world!

    I hope and pray that you and yours are not afflicted with a type of cancer that perhaps the kid who lost his seat to Malia could have cured with the quality education and immense research funding available at Harvard.

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
    ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

  4. AvatarGary Lawton

    Very thought provoking, and as always – very much enjoy your’s and Noah’s gift of gab !

    What follows are comments from a friend whose daughter graduated from Harvard.

    As a private institution, I thing they can do anything they want. I don’t like government meddling into the affairs of private businesses. Would you go along with the government telling you that your company needs to match the national demographic?

    I remember when our daughter got in, they told her that if they wanted to, they could easily fill the freshman class with only students with perfect SAT scores. They choose not too because college is also about learning to get along in an economically and culturally diverse population and that is where real education happens versus a bunch of nerdy pin-heads hanging around.

    I think if you really want your kid to get into Harvard, Yale or Princeton, enroll them in fencing or squash at a young age.

  5. AvatarMiles Free

    ” …Senate Pillow fight, and I loved it.” You mean, you loved that the Offense had knives, while the Candidate had not even a pillow, and the alleged victim lost her privacy, all in service of blood sport? What a strange thing this ‘Love’ is of which you speak.

  6. Lloyd graffLloyd graff

    Gary, you must listen to the Freakonomics podcast. Stephen Leavitt said the best way to hack the Ivy League admissions thicket is to become a top fencer. Not many in America and Harvard has a full team. He taught his kids to sabre.

  7. AvatarKR

    I’m okay with them accepting students without perfect grades or SAT scores. And even public colleges pursue athletes for their programs. There are many talented, ingenious, critical thinkers that do not test well and don’t have the top grades but may be a better teacher or inventor than that top SAT scorer. For example, when they came up with the credentialed program for teachers, it excludes many of those B & C students who are much better communicators and motivators than someone who gets straight A’s.

    However, businesses can’t discriminate based on sex, religion, color, etc. And while I don’t like government interference it would seem that those same rules should apply when accepting students. Which would mean that their couldn’t be an all female/male school, an all black college, a hispanic university, etc. But they are allowed to exist.

  8. AvatarTodd

    We all discriminate at some level. Everyone of us that run a business try to discriminate against jobs/customers that put our business in jeopardy. We discriminate against customers that repeatedly fail to meet their end of a deal or have a habit of “revisionist history” when discussing the standard for evaluating acceptable parts.

    I’m absolutely fine with a privately owned bakery that chooses not to make a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. I’m also absolutely fine with a Muslim caterer that refuses to cook pork or provide alcohol. If someone want’s to exclude a group of people from their business the free market system will reward / punish those decisions. It’s not a perfect system, but it tends to correct itself over time.

  9. AvatarStanley M. Jackson

    This is funny! We have students of color who fall asleep in the common area of a thier own student housing at Yale, but an “Uncomfortable or Unsettled” white student calls the police to investigate the student of color becuase the sleeping black student could not possible be in their right place. Moreover, how many members of congress spoke-up against the pain Sasha and Malia may have experienced by the incredible and reprehensible lies peddled against their father for years. The biggest peddler of those lies is now President of the United States of America.

    Can someone tell me how the feelings of Kavanaugh’s girls is more precious and important than Obama’s young ladies?

    So as the Justice department under the leadership of Trump attempts to address the addmissions practices of a private school, I am not one to believe the majority community actually wants an apple for apples comparison for admissions or anything else that would undercut either their power or world view.

    Asians aren’t kneeling on sidelines while making millions of dollars, Asians kids aren’t victim of gun violence, Asians aren’t the face of the opiod epidemic, and the criminal justice system does not have a disparate issue with Asians. Asians did not even get upset when Koramatsu was overturned by the Supreme Court, but I guess getting into Harvard is more important than staying out of a Concentration Camp!


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