EXCLUSIVE: Leaked admissions data gives a glimpse into Harvard’s affirmative action practices
The Harvard Crimson reported on an incident in 2017 where confidential data about admitted PhD students were accidentally emailed to every student in the economics department. Fast forward six years to today, and The Post Millennial has obtained exclusive access to this data via an anonymous source.
This leak comes at a crucial time, as the Supreme Court of the United States prepares to repeal affirmative action. The lawsuit that led to this decision was based on evidence of discriminatory practices at Harvard, specifically against Asian students in undergraduate admissions. While today’s newly leaked data deals with graduate admissions, instead of undergraduate admissions, the principle remains the same: Harvard is discriminating against Asians.
The majority of the leaked data is considered confidential and will be redacted, such as phone numbers, names, and birthdays. The main revelation in the “Admit List Department.xlsx” file is a hidden column that identifies whether or not a student is a “Minority,” which provides us with a rare insight into the workings of an admissions process that is widely regarded as being shadowy and opaque. There were 44 students admitted to the Harvard economics department’s PhD program in 2017, of which three (7 percent of the cohort) were classified as “Minority” and eight (18 percent of the cohort) as “Lobby.” It should be noted that roughly a dozen of the admitted applicants were Asian, but none of those were tagged as “Minority”.
It would be interesting to know exactly what “Lobby” means. It may simply mean that someone on the faculty knows this particular person very well and is convinced he/she would do excellent work (which is probably a good criterion) or that this is some kind of donor connection (which is less likely, but who knows) or some general “catch-all” category for nepotism. Whatever the precise definition of “Lobby” (Harvard refuses to comment), this hidden column suggests that Harvard reserves two to three times as many spots for those with well-connected lobbying ties as it does for minorities.
“It has come to my attention that the faculty and students received an Excel spreadsheet from a staff member containing hidden columns of data,” wrote the chairman of the Department of Economics to the entire department in 2017, in an email obtained by the Post Millennial. “The data in those hidden columns is private information … I ask everyone, in the strongest possible terms, to do the right thing and leave those columns hidden. Naturally, I also ask that you do not forward that spreadsheet to anyone else.” A day later, he sent a follow-up email asking all members of the economics department to permanently delete the email and any copies of the spreadsheet that were attached to it.
The Post Millennial sent both the leaked admissions data and these two emails to Harvard in order to verify their authenticity and ensure that they had not been tampered with. Despite numerous attempts, Harvard declined to comment or reply. Prior to publication, a draft of this entire article was shared with both the Harvard Economics department leadership and the Harvard communications team, and they were given several opportunities to identify and correct any factual inaccuracies, but they declined to do so.
In addition to the hidden minority flag column, there was also a hidden column showing internal discussions about the admitted PhD students.
The vast majority of these comments about the 44 admitted students are positive; the 2 harshest comments were reserved for the only 2 “Minority” admits who actually matriculated to Harvard. Both of them were Latino males. One has a hidden comment next to his name: “Letters are pretty clear not for us … If threshold question is can he do the work, answer is probably yes”, while the other has comments, “He can do the work … Thesis work not great. Scant evidence on research potential.” It seems that “Minority” candidates got accepted despite negative reviews.
This double standard in admissions has been happening for decades; in a 1993 paper titled The Science of Political Science Graduate Admission, the authors, including a tenured Harvard professor, explain how Harvard’s PhD admissions work: “We admit, in a separate Affirmative Action category, any minority applicant who we believe would complete the program if admitted.”
Someone who recently graduated with a PhD in economics from Harvard spoke to The Post Millennial on the condition of anonymity, and was asked what this leaked data says about Harvard’s admissions process.
According to the source: “Economists are a bit of a black sheep on campus. At an elite school like Harvard, the campus environment is extremely hard left. That makes even run-of-the-mill liberal economists seem like fascists, relatively. In that social environment, both faculty and students want to achieve more harmonious coexistence with the rest of the school. There’s a strong incentive to do that by adopting discriminatory practices to benefit favored identity groups, effectively virtue signaling for aggressive left wing causes. To many in the department this seems harmless, unless you’re one of the people who gets hurt by that discrimination.”
Read the full piece from the Post Millennial here.