Harvard’s Ad­mis­sions Se­crets

Les cri­tères d'ad­mis­sion se­crets à l'uni­ver­si­té de Harvard

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito Sommaire -

L’uni­ver­si­té de Harvard face à la ques­tion de la dis­cri­mi­na­tion.

La ré­pu­ta­tion de Harvard n’est plus à faire. De­puis quinze ans, la pres­ti­gieuse uni­ver­si­té amé­ri­caine do­mine le clas­se­ment de Shan­ghai des meilleures uni­ver­si­tés au monde. Pour­tant, elle est au­jourd’hui ac­cu­sée de­vant la jus­tice de dis­cri­mi­ner les can­di­dats amé­ri­cains d’ori­gine asia­tique dans le but de li­mi­ter leur nombre. Ce pro­cès en cours est en train de re­lan­cer le dé­bat sur la dis­cri­mi­na­tion dans l’ac­cès à l’en­sei­gne­ment su­pé­rieur...

He had per­fect scores — on his SAT, on three SAT sub­ject tests and on nine Advanced Pla­ce­ment exams — and was ran­ked first in his high school class of 592. An ad­mis­sions of­fi­cer who re­vie­wed his ap­pli­ca­tion to Harvard cal­led him “the pro­ver­bial pi­cket fence,” the em­bo­di­ment of the

1. score note, ré­sul­tat / SAT = Scho­las­tic Ap­ti­tude Test (aux É.U.) exa­men d'en­trée à l'uni­ver­si­té / SAT sub­ject test exa­men d'en­trée à l'uni­ver­si­té por­tant sur une ou plu­sieur(s) ma­tière(s) choi­sie(s) par l'élève / Advanced Pla­ce­ment pro­gramme per­met­tant à des lycéens de suivre des cours de ni­veau uni­ver­si­taire dans cer­taines ma­tières / to rank se clas­ser / ad­mis­sion of­fi­cer ici, char­gé des ad­mis­sions (à l'uni­ver­si­té) / to re­view étu­dier, exa­mi­ner / ap­pli­ca­tion can­di­da­ture / the pro­ver­bial pi­cket fence réf. à la pa­lis­sade (pi­cket fence) que l'on trouve au­tour des mai­sons dans les ban­lieues amé­ri­caines et sym­bole de la vie idéale de la classe moyenne. Ici, l'étu­diant idéal / em­bo­di­ment in­car­na­tion / Ame­ri­can dream, saying, “So­meone we’ll fight over w/ Prin­ce­ton, I’d guess.” But in the end, the student was wait-lis­ted and did not get in.

2. Ge­ne­ra­tions of high school stu­dents have ap­plied to Harvard thin­king that if they che­cked all the right boxes, they would be ad­mit­ted. But be­hind the cur­tain, Harvard’s much-fea­red ad­mis­sions of­fi­cers have a whole other set of boxes that few am­bi­tious high school stu­dents and their pa­rents know about — or could check even if they did. The of­fi­cers speak a se­cret lan­guage — of “dock-

to fight, fought, fought over se dis­pu­ter, se battre pour / w/ = with / to be wait-lis­ted être mis sur liste d'at­tente. 2. to check ici, co­cher / box ici, case / be­hind the cur­tain en cou­lisses / much-fea­red très re­dou­té / ets,” “the lop list,” “tips” and the “dean’s in­ter­est list” — and main­tain a culling sys­tem in which fac­tors like where ap­pli­cants are from and whe­ther their pa­rents went to Harvard may be just as im­por­tant as sco­ring a per­fect 1600 on the SAT.

3. This ar­cane se­lec­tion pro­cess has been illu­mi­na­ted by a law­suit ac­cu­sing Harvard of vio­la­ting fe­de­ral ci­vil rights law by using ra­cial ba­lan­cing to shape its ad­mis­sions in a way that dis­cri­mi­nates against Asian-Ame­ri­cans. Harvard says it does not dis­cri­mi­nate.


4. The law­suit, brought by an an­ti-af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion group cal­led Stu­dents for Fair Ad­mis- do­cket ici, ré­gion / lop list réf. aux cinq cri­tères (dont l'ori­gine eth­nique) per­met­tant d'af­fi­ner la sé­lec­tion à la fin du pro­ces­sus d'ad­mis­sion (to lop off cou­per) / tip ici, avan­tage / dean doyen (d’uni­ver­si­té) / culling ici, éli­mi­na­toire (to cull sé­lec­tion­ner) / ap­pli­cant can­di­dat. 3. ar­cane mys­té­rieux, her­mé­tique / law­suit ac­tion ju­di­ciaire, pro­cès / ci­vil rights law loi de 1964 dé­cla­rant, entre autres, la dis­cri­mi­na­tion ra­ciale illé­gale / ba­lan­cing (re­cherche d'un) équi­libre / to shape fa­çon­ner. 4. af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion dis­cri­mi­na­tion po­si­tive / fair juste, équi­table /

sions, has re­vi­ved the na­tio­nal de­bate over race-conscious ad­mis­sions, which is playing out from col­leges down to ele­men­ta­ry schools. That de­bate goes back to the ci­vil rights mo­ve­ment of the 1950s and ‘60s. The as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rev. Dr. Mar­tin Lu­ther King Jr. in 1968 was a tur­ning point, pu­shing col­leges to re­double their ef­forts to be more re­pre­sen­ta­tive of U.S. so­cie­ty.

5. But Asians were an over­loo­ked mi­no­ri­ty des­pite a long his­to­ry of dis­cri­mi­na­tion. As late as 1976, Harvard did not re­co­gnize them as a mi­no­ri­ty group and bar­red them from a fresh­man mi­no­ri­ty orien­ta­tion ban­quet. They had a kind of nei­ther-nor iden­ti­ty, de­nied both the so­li­da­ri­ty of other stu­dents of co­lor and the so­cial stan­ding of white people. “There’s even a ten­den­cy to stay away from each other be­cause you know how, in col­lege, sta­tus and pres­tige are im­por­tant,” said T.K. Chang, who was at Harvard in the mid-70s.

6. Since then the stakes in the ad­mis­sions game have grown. About 40,000 stu­dents ap­ply each year, and about 2,000 are ad­mit­ted for some 1,600 seats in the fresh­man class. The chances of ad­mis­sion this year were un­der 5 percent.


7. The sorting be­gins right away. The coun­try is di­vi­ded in­to about 20 geo­gra­phic “do­ckets,” each of which is as­si­gned to a sub­com­mit­tee of ad­mis­sions of­fi­cers with in­ti­mate know­ledge of that re­gion and its high schools. Ge­ne­ral­ly two or three ad­mis­sions of­fi­cers, or rea­ders, rate ap­pli­ca­tions in five ca­te­go­ries: aca­de­mic, ex­tracur­ri­cu­lar, ath­le­tic, per­so­nal and “ove­rall.” They al­so rate tea­chers’ and gui­dance coun­se­lors’ re­com­men­da­tions. And an alum­ni in­ter­vie­wer al­so rates the can­di­dates.

8. Harvard says it al­so consi­ders “tips,” or ad­mis­sions ad­van­tages, for some ap­pli­cants. The plain­tiffs say the col­lege gives tips to five groups: ra­cial and eth­nic mi­no­ri­ties; le­ga­cies, or the chil­dren of Harvard or Rad­cliffe alum­ni; re­la­tives of a Harvard do­nor; the chil­dren of staff or fa­cul­ty mem­bers; and re­crui­ted ath­letes. Whe­ther Harvard gives a pe­nal­ty — in ef­fect, the op­po­site of a tip — to AsianA­me­ri­cans goes to the heart of the cur­rent li­ti­ga­tion. A 1990 re­port by the Edu­ca­tion De­part­ment found that, while Harvard was not dis­cri­mi­na­ting against Asian-Ame­ri­cans, it was not gi­ving them a tip, ei­ther.

9. There are other ways to bol­ster one’s chances of ad­mis­sion, ac­cor­ding to the court pa­pers. Sav­vy alum­ni hope to gain an ad­van­tage for their chil­dren by vo­lun­tee­ring for Harvard, per­haps by being an ad­mis­sions in­ter­vie­wer. It al­so helps to se­cure a spot on the “dean’s in­ter­est list” or the “di­rec­tor’s in­ter­est list.” These lists in­clude the names of can­di­dates who are of in­ter­est to do­nors or have connec­tions to Harvard, ac­cor­ding to the court pa­pers.


10. The plain­tiffs ac­cuse Harvard of jig­ge­ring its se­lec­tion pro­cess to create a re­mar­ka­bly stable ra­cial pro­file from year to year. This year it ad­mit­ted a class that was al­most 23 percent Asian-Ame­ri­can; al­most 16 percent Afri­can-Ame­ri­can; and just over 12 percent La­ti­no. The share of ad­mit­ted stu­dents who are Asian-Ame­ri­can has ri­sen from 17.6 percent in 2009, and other mi­no­ri­ties have gai­ned in con­cert. But if Harvard were ra­ce­blind, the plain­tiffs say, its fresh­man class would be about 40 percent Asian-Ame­ri­can, like the Uni­ver­si­ty of California, Ber­ke­ley, a pu­blic ins­ti­tu­tion that has to abide by a state ban on ra­cial pre­fe­rences.

11. Khu­ra­na, the Harvard Col­lege dean, ack­now­led­ged that Harvard was not al­ways per­fect, but said it was trying to get its prac­tices right. “I have a great deal of hu­mi­li­ty kno­wing that some day his­to­ry will judge us,” Khu­ra­na said. “I think that’s why we are constant­ly as­king our­selves this ques­tion: How can we do bet­ter?”

Asians were an over­loo­ked mi­no­ri­ty des­pite a long his­to­ry of dis­cri­mi­na­tion.


Harvard Uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus re­flec­ting on the Charles Ri­ver.

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