Sunday, October 09, 2005

Secret societies

Can the Ivy League's Big Three live down their history of discrimination?
By Christopher Shea

JEROME KARABEL DID NOT have to dig very far for evidence of discrimination in researching his new book, ''The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton" (Houghton Mifflin), appearing later this month. ''There were so many smoking guns," says the Berkeley sociologist, ''that by the end I couldn't see across the room, there was so much smoke."
Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts Indeed, the competition for the title of most shameful incident is pretty stiff. Would the lowest moment be when a Harvard alumnus, in 1925, sent the college's president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, a letter noting his ''utter disgust" at having run into several Jewish students on a recent campus visit? (Lowell responded sympathetically that he ''had foreseen the peril of having too large a number of an alien race and had tried to prevent it.")
Or perhaps the Anecdote Least Likely to Appear in an Admissions Brochure involves the brilliant black student who showed up to all-white Princeton in 1939, and was promptly pulled out of a registration line. As the student, later a New York appeals court judge, recalled, he was taken to the dean of admissions, examined ''like a disgusting specimen under a microscope," and told he should go home.