The deliberations that take place inside 86 Brattle Street, a red brick building where Harvard University’s admissions committee convenes, have very much stayed inside 86 Brattle Street.
A federal trial that began this week accusing Harvard of stacking the deck against Asian-American applicants is providing a rare glimpse into the secretive selection process at one of the country’s most elite universities. It is as if those sitting on the wood benches before Judge Allison D. Burroughs of Federal District Court in Boston have been invited inside the inner sanctum of the Harvard Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.
There is the longtime dean of admissions, William Fitzsimmons (Harvard Class of 1967), on the stand, grilled on whether rural students receive a leg up over urban students. They do.
There on a big screen are his emails with the university’s fund-raisers, suggesting special consideration for the offspring of big donors, those who have “already committed to a building” or have “an art collection which could conceivably come our way.”
Grades, test scores, intended major, personality ratings, ethnicity — all the various factors that can help turn an anonymous high school student into a Harvard man or Harvard woman are being dissected for all to see.