Thursday, January 14, 2016

Free Harvard, Fair Harvard

As described in the NYTimes article below, I am part of a five person slate running for Harvard's Board of Overseers. The main organizer is Ron Unz, and the best known individual on our team is Ralph Nader. The others are Lee C. Cheng, chief legal counsel for the online electronics retailer, and Stuart Taylor, an attorney, journalist and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute (also co-author of the book Mismatch).

Our platform is simple. We are in favor of

1. More transparency in Harvard admissions
2. Increased use of endowment income to make Harvard more accessible

If you are a Harvard degree holder (including from the graduate and professional schools), you can sign the petition for us to get on the ballot. Please contact Ron [ ] directly if you are willing to do so. Even better, you can help us recruit your fellow Harvard alums to sign.
A Push to Make Harvard Free Also Questions the Role of Race in Admissions

Should Harvard be free?

That is the provocative question posed by an outsider slate of candidates running for the Board of Overseers at Harvard, which helps set strategy for the university. They say Harvard makes so much money from its $37.6 billion endowment that it should stop charging tuition to undergraduates.

But they have tied the notion to another equally provocative question: Does Harvard shortchange Asian-American applicants in admissions?

The slate of five candidates was put together by Ron Unz, a conservative from California and software entrepreneur who sponsored ballots initiatives opposing bilingual education. Although the campaign, “Free Harvard, Fair Harvard,” includes one left-leaning member — the consumer advocate Ralph Nader — Mr. Unz and the other three candidates have written or testified extensively against affirmative action, opposing race-based admissions.

Their positions are in lock step with accusations in a federal lawsuit accusing the university of discriminating against Asian-Americans in admissions. Harvard has denied the allegations.

Coincidence or not, the plaintiffs in that case are seeking from Harvard exactly what the slate of candidates wants: disclosure of data showing how the university’s freshman class is selected each year.

The politically charged data holds the potential to reveal whether Harvard bypasses better-qualified Asian-American candidates in favor of whites, blacks and Hispanics, and the children of the wealthy and powerful, the group argues.

“Our focus is entirely on greater transparency in admissions,” Mr. Unz said, “namely urging Harvard to provide much more detailed information on how they select the very small slice of applicants receiving offers of admission, in order to curb the huge potential abuse possible under the entirely opaque system.”

Whatever the political motivations of the slate, Mr. Unz and the other members have hit on two increasingly contentious issues in higher education: astronomical college costs and affirmative action.

... Mr. Unz, whose 2012 data analysis of admissions at Harvard and other Ivy League institutions is cited in the case against the university, said his slate was not pressing to abolish affirmative action at Harvard, it was seeking only to get more information. But several members of the group are known for their past advocacy against using race in admissions.

One is Lee C. Cheng, chief legal counsel for the online electronics retailer, who is co-founder of an organization that filed a brief in support of the white plaintiff in the lawsuit against the University of Texas that is before the Supreme Court.

Mr. Cheng is also quoted in the suit against Harvard, which was brought by Students for Fair Admissions.

Another member of the slate is Stuart Taylor Jr., a former reporter for The New York Times who is co-author of a 2012 book contending that affirmative action harms minority students. And another is Stephen Hsu, a physicist and vice president at Michigan State University who has written against the use of race in college admissions.

Mr. Nader, who got his law degree from Harvard, said the admissions system has been “bollixed up for decades” by legacies and other preferences. ...

This is not the first time a slate of candidates has tried to influence the board. In 1991, a Harvard Law School student named Barack Obama was one of three candidates running on a slate called the Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid. ...
See also What is best for Harvard and Defining Merit.

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