At the time the Supreme Court of the United States found UC-Davis's
medical school admission process unconstitutional, Harvard College's
admission process was congratulated for ensuring diversity in a
Read the excerpt of Harvard's admission policy provided below and complete the Venn Diagram.
Excerpts from the Harvard College Admissions Program
For the past 30 years Harvard College has received each year
applications for admission that greatly exceed the number of places in
the freshman class. The number of applications who are deemed to be not
"qualified" is comparatively small. The vast majority of applicants
demonstrate through test scores, high school records and teachers'
recommendations that they have the academic ability to do adequate work
at Harvard. . . . Faced with the dilemma of choosing among a large
number of "qualified" candidates, the Committee on Admissions could use
the single criterion of scholarly excellence and attempt to determine
who among the candidates were likely to perform best academically. But
for the past 30 years, the Committee on Admission has not adopted this
approach. The belief has been that if scholarly excellence were the sole
or even predominant criterion, Harvard College would lose a great deal
of its vitality and intellectual excellence and that the quality of the
educational experience offered to all students would suffer. . . .
Consequently, after selecting those students whose intellectual
potential will seem extraordinary to the faculty—perhaps 150 or so out
of an entering class of over 1,100—the Committee seeks—variety in making
its choices. . . . The effectiveness of our students' educational
experience has seemed to the Committee to be affected as importantly by a
wide variety of interests, talents, backgrounds and career goals as it
is by a fine faculty and our libraries, laboratories and housing
arrangements. . . .
The belief that diversity adds an essential ingredient to the
educational process has long been a tenet of Harvard College admissions.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, however, diversity meant students from
California, New York, and Massachusetts; city dwellers and farm boys;
violinists, painters and football players; biologists, historians and
classicists; potential stockbrokers, academics and politicians. The
result was that very few ethnic or racial minorities attended Harvard
College. In recent years Harvard College has expanded the concept of
diversity to include students from disadvantaged economic, racial and
ethnic groups. Harvard College now recruits not only Californians or
Louisianans but also blacks and Chicanos and other minority students.
Contemporary conditions in the United States mean that if Harvard
College is to continue to offer a first- rate education to its students,
minority representation in the undergraduate body cannot be ignored by
the Committee on Admissions.
In practice, this new definition of diversity has meant that race has
been a factor in some admission decisions. When the Committee on
Admissions reviews the large middle group of applicants who are
"admissible" and deemed capable of doing good work in their courses, the
race of an applicant may tip the balance in his favor just as
geographic origin or a life spent on a farm may tip the balance in other
candidates' cases. A farm boy from Idaho can bring something to Harvard
College that a Bostonian cannot offer. Similarly, a black student can
usually bring something that a white person cannot offer. The quality of
the educational experience of all the students in Harvard College
depends in part on these differences in the background and outlook that
students bring with them.
In Harvard College admissions the Committee has not set target-quotas
for the number of blacks, or of musicians, football players, physicists
or Californians to be admitted in a given year. At the same time the
Committee is aware that if Harvard College is to provide a truly
heterogen[e]ous environment that reflects the rich diversity of the
United States, it cannot be provided without some attention to numbers.
It would not make sense, for example, to have 10 or 20 students out of
1,100 whose homes are west of the Mississippi. Comparably, 10 or 20
black students could not begin to bring to their classmates and to each
other the variety of points of view, backgrounds and experiences of
blacks in the United States. Their small numbers might also create a
sense of isolation among the black students themselves and thus make it
more difficult for them to develop and achieve their potential.
Consequently, when making its decisions, the Committee on Admissions is
aware that there is some relationship between numbers and achieving the
benefits to be derived from a diverse student body, and between numbers
and providing a reasonable environment for those students admitted. But
that awareness does not mean that the Committee sets a minimum number of
blacks or of people from west of the Mississippi who are to be
admitted. It means only that in choosing among thousands of applicants
who are not only "admissible" academically but have other strong
qualities, the Committee, with a number of criteria in mind, pays some
attention to distribution among many types and categories of students.