A batch of internal Harvard admission-related emails have come into the public domain as part of a lawsuit alleging that Harvard discriminates against Asian applicants, and they reveal that the admissions process is tilted in favor of members of families who are major donors to Harvard.
The emails reveal members of the admissions committee and the Dean's office discussing the inclusion in the "Dean's Special Interest List" for applicants whose families have made recent donations, as well as applicants whose families used to donate, but have not made donations in recent years, with the implication that these families might restart the flow of cash once their young scions are enrolled at Harvard.
The existence of the Dean's Special Interest List became public last summer. It is one of several lists of students who are bumped ahead in the Harvard admissions queue, joining legacy students, faculty kids, recruited atheletes — all "overwhelmingly white."
Harvard has been tight-lipped about who earns a spot on that list and why. On Wednesday, Hughes pressed for answers. He asked Fitzsimmons whether the list includes the "children of donors" and "other relatives of donors."
"It could be," Fitzsimmons said.
Hughes also grilled Fitzsimmons on how applicants wind up on the dean's list. Fitzsimmons said the University Development Office — an office that solicits alumni donations — sometimes offers names to the dean. Summer court filings suggested the dean regularly sits down with Development Office employees and senior admissions staff to discuss specific high schoolers.
Fitzsimmons defended Harvard's special treatment of applicants linked to top donors as "important for the long-term strength of the institution." He said this tactic secures funding for scholarships, among other things.