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For 5 Harvard Freshmen, A Personal Examination of How They Got In

[2018年11月1日] 來源:紐約時報 作者:KATE TAYLOR   字號 [] [] []  

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Two freshman friends sat across from each other in a common room, comparing notes on how exactly they got into Harvard. In some ways, their situations were opposites: One was a “double legacy,” with two parents who had themselves received Harvard degrees. The other was the son of a police officer and was on full financial aid.


The legacy student, Iman Lavery, remembered feeling self-conscious during a conversation when she first arrived at school: A classmate had contrasted people who were “super qualified to be here” with legacies. For her friend on financial aid, Joseph Felkers, it had been the frequent questions from new acquaintances of “What’s your thing?” — why did you get in? — that set him on edge, making him wonder if his “thing” was his passion for poetry, or simply that he was poor.

身為校友子女的伊曼·萊弗里(Iman Lavery)記得她剛來學校時,有一次跟人談話時感到難為情的事情:一位同學把那些“超級有資格來這里”的人和校友子女拿來做了一番對比。對她靠助學金來哈佛的朋友約瑟夫·費爾克(Joseph Felkers)來說,新認識的人總是會問自己“你的優勢是什么?”——你怎么進來的?——這會讓他感到坐立不安,開始問自己他的“優勢”是對詩歌的熱愛,還是只是因為他是窮人。


For many freshmen at Harvard, who have started school as a lawsuit challenging the university’s use of affirmative action in admissions plays out in court, the case has been personal. It has sharpened the usual freshman-year doubts about how they ended up among the less than five percent of applicants chosen from a pool of 42,749. And it has forced uncomfortable questions about what circumstances beyond their control — like race, wealth, or legacy status — got them or their classmates here.


Both Ms. Lavery and Mr. Felkers said that the case wasn’t talked about much among freshmen, though they said they had discussed it here and there, at dinner or between classes. Mr. Felkers described it as “kind of an elephant in the room.”

萊弗里和費爾克都表示,新生們對這起案子的談論不多,盡管他們說自己在吃飯或課間,不時會和人討論這件事。費爾克說這件事“被人刻意回避了”。 But late on a recent weeknight, the two sat down with Ms. Lavery’s three roommates — Nadine Lee, Lauren Marshall, and Charlotte Ruhl — to talk about the case and how it had made them reflect on their admission to Harvard and their experience of Harvard so far.

但近期一個工作日的深夜,兩人和萊弗里的三名室友—— 娜丁·李(Nadine Lee)、勞倫·馬歇爾(Lauren Marshall)和夏洛特·呂林(Charlotte Ruhl)——坐了下來,探討這個案子、它是如何讓他們開始反思自己被哈佛錄取過程的,以及他們迄今為止在哈佛的感受。

The room was decorated with botanical prints and a poster of a landscape by the Japanese artist Hiroshige. Mr. Felkers, who wore wire-rimmed glasses and his hair in an undercut, perched on a white couch next to Ms. Marshall and Ms. Ruhl, who tucked their bare feet under them. Ms. Lavery and Ms. Lee, both in leggings and sneakers, sat across from them on a chair and a storage bench. As they talked, the students, all 18 years old, passed around a package of “Double Stuf” Oreos that Ms. Ruhl’s mother had sent.


The plaintiffs in the case have accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans by holding them to a higher standard than any other racial group. Defending itself, Harvard has been forced to reveal aspects of its admissions process that it kept closely held in the past, and some elements, like special treatment given to students whose relatives made major gifts to the university, have been jarring.



Two of Ms. Lavery’s roommates — Ms. Lee, who is Korean-American, and Ms. Marshall, who has a Chinese mother and a British father — said they thought that Harvard’s admissions process was biased against Asian-Americans.


Ms. Lee, who grew up in Englewood, N.J. Seoul and Marin County, Calif., said she had long assumed that she would face discrimination in applying to college, partly because she had watched Asian friends with excellent grades and scores be rejected by their desired schools. She said that she had thought a lot about how to stand out from other Asian-American applicants. Ultimately, she applied to join the United States Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. In her applications she emphasized her enthusiasm for the military and her ambition to be a trauma surgeon.

在新澤西州恩格爾伍德、首爾和加利福尼亞州馬林縣長大的李表示,她一直認為自己在申請大學時會遭到歧視,部分原因是因為她看到一些成績優異的亞裔朋友被他們理想中的學校拒絕。她說,她考慮過如何從其他亞裔申請人中脫穎而出。最終,她申請加入美國空軍預備役軍官訓練團(United States Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps)。在申請中,她強調自己對軍隊的熱情以及成為創傷外科醫生的雄心。

“I knew that I didn’t — whatever this means — I didn’t want to be the typical Asian,” she said.



Ms. Marshall, who wore dark eyeliner and had a swirl of bleached hair, is an accomplished composer from just north of London. She said she had not felt as though she was competing against other students of Asian backgrounds to get into Harvard because her strengths were creative rather than strictly academic.


She said that what she had read about the lawsuit, particularly the fact that Asian-American applicants were rated lower on personality traits than applicants of other backgrounds, convinced her that some admissions officers probably were prejudiced against Asian-Americans.

她說,自己從這起訴訟中了解到的,特別是亞裔申請人的性格評分低于其他背景申請人這一事實,使她確信一些招生人員可能對亞裔美國人有偏見。 “That’s just racist,” she said of the personal ratings. (Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, William R. Fitzsimmons, suggested in testimony in court that high school teachers and guidance counselors were partly to blame, saying that recommendations for white students were stronger than those for Asian-American students.)

“這就是種族主義,”她說起這個個人評級系統。(哈佛大學的招生和經濟援助主任威廉·R·菲茨西蒙斯[William R. Fitzsimmons]在法庭作證時表示,高中教師和輔導員也應承擔部分責任,并說白人學生的推薦信要比亞裔學生更有力。)

Still, while she wanted Harvard to address that, she said she also opposed the plaintiffs’ effort to end affirmative action in the school’s admissions.


While the lawsuit directly accuses Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans, it also has shed light on an array of advantages that some applicants receive; legacies, for instance, who are admitted at five times the rate of non-legacy students, recruited athletes, and those whose relatives have made major donations.


From reading online forums where students compared their application profiles and discussed one another’s chance of getting in to different schools, Mr. Felkers had gleaned that his potential “hooks,” or advantages, were that he was from the Midwest, and that his parents were low-income.



Mr. Felkers, who is from outside Grand Rapids, Mich., said he was grateful for any boost to his chances, but that he also felt ashamed. After he was admitted to Harvard, he said he heard that an acquaintance from a rival high school, who had been rejected from some elite colleges, had told a mutual friend, “‘Oh, Joseph got in because he’s on free and reduced lunch.’”


“It’s like a punch to the stomach,” Mr. Felkers said. “Of course it’s going to make you feel insecure.”

“這就像對我的肚子打了一拳,”費爾克斯說。“當然,這會讓你失去信心。” At Harvard, he said, his family’s poverty was often on his mind, especially when topics came up like what people’s parents did for a living or where they went to college. He said he frequently found himself internally debating how much to reveal.


“In a situation like this, we’re all just sitting around eating Oreos — I’m comfortable talking about my aid status,” he said.


“But if I’m, you know, on a Friday night, trying to get into a party thrown by, like, the heavyweight rowers, I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, by the way, I’m on full aid.’”


For Ms. Lavery, who is from Seattle, the discomfort has lingered since the conversation — during an August pre-orientation program — in which a classmate had casually suggested that most legacies were not qualified to be at Harvard. After that, she said she spent a lot of time thinking about whether to reveal that she was a legacy to friends that she was making in the program, some of whom came from low-income backgrounds.


“I was conscious of, ‘How am I going to tell that to them? Is it going to be a big deal when I tell them that? Is it going to change the way they think of me?’”


“At the same time I almost feel guilty saying that,” she quickly added, “because being a legacy affords me a privilege.”

“與此同時,我幾乎感到內疚,”她很快補充說,“因為身為校友子女為我提供了特權。” Ms. Lavery’s maternal grandmother immigrated from Mexico and her maternal grandfather from India, so, she checked three boxes on her application, indicating that she was Hispanic, white and Asian. She said she knew that her racial and ethnic background could have played a role in her admission, as well.


“A lot of my thinking after I got in,” she said, “was like, ‘O.K., well, I know that these were factors, but I know that I’m qualified to go to this school,’ and so it’s kind of a balancing act.”



Ms. Ruhl, who is white and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City — where efforts to diversify the student body have left some Asian-Americans fearing that they will be excluded — was the one student in the room who said she had no idea what about her had won her admission.

魯爾是白人,畢業于紐約市史岱文森高中(Stuyvesant High School) ——該校令學生群體多樣化的努力讓一些亞裔美國人擔心自己會被排除在外——在參與這次談話的學生中,她是唯一一個不清楚自己到底是為什么獲得入學資格的人。

Earlier in the week, she put in a request to see her own admissions file. Harvard has officially permitted students to see their admissions files since 2015, after a group of Stanford students successfully used a federal education law to gain access to their records. A Harvard spokeswoman said that the university had received roughly 200 such requests per month this fall.


In a moment when many people here are examining what has won some people admission over others, the chance to see one’s own file — complete with notes from admissions officers — can be tantalizing, though some students have said that they found the records cryptic.


Ms. Ruhl said she was simply curious. “This whole admissions process is such a mystery,” she said.



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