Diversity is for show; Harvard study shows Harvard is for rich people

Originally published at: Diversity is for show; Harvard study shows Harvard is for rich people | Boing Boing


Kirsten Dunst Actors On Actors GIF by PBS SoCal


Our friend Hassan grew up modestly as a son of immigrants and worked his way into Harvard. One time I asked him what it was like and he said that it was actually kind of sad and lonely because a lot of the people were so socially inept that it was hard to make friends (Hassan is not a hard person to like). He comes from a large, tight family and it was a bit of a shock to him. I imagine a lot of this has to do with coming from the sort of isolation that wealth and privilege afford.


My partner sent me an interesting piece on the NPR podcast Throughline. It was primarily an interview with Jay Caspian Kang, who sat in on the court cases leading up to the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.

There were definitely holes in his perspective about the historical significance, symbolic importance and knock-on effects of striking down affirmative action. He seemed to totally ignore the value of having highly visible Black people among elite circles. He also seemed to think that the Supreme Court was narrowly focused on capital “A” “Affirmative Action,” which, if I understand the decision, it was not.

He did make an interesting argument that affirmative action at Ivy Leagues (which he argued is really the only place it is still practiced) has been reduced to a fig leaf for allowing continuing elitism at those institutions for the same reasons argued in the OP. I mean, ultimately, he’s arguing against Harvard, or any Ivy leagues existing at all, as he seems them as simply a mechanism for reproducing inequality and elitism.

This is one example of how, now that the Supreme Court has ruled race-based affirmative action unconstitutional, it’s more important than ever that schools make real efforts to have economic and geographical diversity, recruiting from disadvantaged school districts, etc. Done right, that would also go a long way towards creating racial diversity even if they aren’t explicitly using race-based criteria.


I’m breathlessly awaiting the “grass is green” study from Harvard.


This was one of the arguments that Kang made in the Throughline piece. He took CA state colleges as an example. They were banned from considering race in their admissions, and the racial diversity of their incoming classes dropped off a cliff. Over time, they turned their efforts into building a stronger pipeline from community colleges to their 4 year colleges and over a decade rebuilt to the racial diversity they had before the ban and greatly improved their economic diversity. He concluded that this was an argument for doing away with Affirmative Action, and I disagree with that conclusion, but it was an interesting case study in what states can do in the current legal landscape.


fixing harvard’s economic diversity is unlikely to affect the networks that exist between wealthy, mainly white, families. and it’s those networks i’d imagine that are the common reason those kids are getting in harvard and then becoming senators, etc.

( though it’s not surprising that harvard professors would over-value the benefits of the classes they teach )

And there it is, right in the motto.


Yes, and water is wet.

It doesn’t seem at all surprising to me that a school with a 53k average tuition wouldn’t have a lot of people form the lower economic tiers.


I think it’s partially that, but also heavily because these schools still place a very large emphasis on things like SAT scores and number of AP classes, which disproportionately favors those kids who go to elite schools and can afford private tutors.

Schools like Harvard have started to try and reduce the obvious biases, like drooling over the heads of the debate teams and fencing clubs, but these exam-based scores (particularly the AP classes) still act as a gatekeeper before the kids can even get their admissions essays read.


No one could have seen that coming.

Well, of course. Otherwise, how can the faculty get their new building “donated” by alumni that by some coincidence having their kid enrolling as the same time? /S


… of course, to prove that wealth is not a form of “merit,” they’d have to define merit, which nobody ever seems able to do

Merit is the one thing that it is legal and ethical to discriminate against people for not having, and we’re all reluctant to spell out what that is :thinking:


Perhaps we are referring to different variables with confusingly similar names; but IPEDS data shows a significantly lower cost of attendance than that. The sticker price is really high; but(if only because it looks really elitist for well qualified applicants to be openly priced out) it’s more or less imaginary if the situation demands.

As this study suggests, there are clearly other measures in place that keep the student body largely wealthy; but they specifically avoid the really overt “it’s not for you because it costs $80k/year, poor” denials.

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If only society would realize that a degree from Harvard isn’t worth any more than a degree from any state college…

Only likely to see it, if it’s funded by the “Grass Growers Association of America”

A friend of mine got offered a full scholarship to Harvard- Books, tuition, housing- She turned it down because she grew up in a trailer park and saw no way she could fit in with the kind of affluence you see in their student body. Even with all the housing and academic stuff covered, she’d never be able to dress the part or participate in any of the social stuff everyone did.

Ended up getting a master’s in education at a state school and spent the next decade waiting tables.

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It takes $1.2-1.5M to raise a Harvard candidate from 0-18. Academic, athletic, art and social competences sought by Harvard come at a very high price. Nature and nurture are heavily concentrated in the top 10% earners… the rest have no chance. This is not Harvard or Princeton problem and saying they “like money” is not helping to point to the source of the problem. Top performers in the society are also top earners who will not spare $$ to raise top candidates. The government and the society need to step in and create “nurture” for the rest of the kids to give them a chance to become competitive so Harvard can have a wider pool of candidates