As it turns out, the multicultural images plastered in pamphlets, ads, and social media accounts from Harvard University are all but a facade as majority of its population is still, as it has always been, wealthy, white, and straight. Most of them hailing from the country’s coasts.
Also, many of them got there not because of merit but of nepotism, according to a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The study, conducted by economists Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler, and Tyler Ransom, found that 43% of the white students admitted to Harvard University were recruited athletes, legacy students, children of faculty and staff, or on the dean’s interest list. The list is composed of applicants “whose parents or relatives have donated to Harvard.”
Considering Harvard’s acceptance rate for its class of 2023 was just 4.5%, it is not surprising that if not due to privilege, they would not be admitted.
In fact, the report found that 75% of them would have been rejected from Harvard if they did not fall into any of those categories. Comparatively, for African American, Latino and Asian American students that got into Harvard under the same conditions, the number is less than 16% each.
“Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged,” the study said.
The study derived statistics from data spanning from 2009 to 2014 which was previously kept under wraps. The figures were only made publicly available in the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) case, a lawsuit brought by Asian-American applicants alleging that Harvard discriminated against them based on race during the admissions process.
The lawsuit, filed in 2014, argues that Harvard’s admissions office holds Asian-Americans to a higher standard and uses a subjective “personal rating” to limit their admission to the elite Ivy League school.
Students for Fair Admissions, the group behind the lawsuit, says students of Asian descent have the strongest academic records yet receive the lowest scores on the personal rating, which scores applicants on traits including “courage” and “likability.”
The authors of the study noted that the questions their study asked were “motivated by the ongoing public debate related to privilege, fairness, and racial equity in higher education.” They added that the information provided in that lawsuit showed how Harvard’s preferences operate for other applicant groups.
On Tuesday, a federal district judge in Boston ruled that the Harvard University’s consideration of race in its admissions process doesn’t violate the rights of Asian applicants.
While Judge Allison D. Burroughs acknowledges that affirmative action programs were not originally intended to be permanent solutions in her decision, she noted that racial diversity continues to be important to universities.
Meanwhile, President of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) Edward Blum said SFFA will appeal this decision as he is reportedly prepared to bring his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.