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Elitist or Egalitarian: Competing Views of Harvard Emerge in Bias Trial

BOSTON – Two heavily different pictures of Harvard – an elitist country club or an egalitarian engine for social change – emerged on Wednesday in a federal trial examining the discriminates against Asian Americans.

The competing views were raised in the testimony of the first witness, William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's longtime dean of admissions. In the plaintiffs' eyes, Mr. Fitzsimmon's catered to privilege, allowing the donors to come out of the application process.

Harvard's effort to reach students of all backgrounds. Harvard.

[ The Harvard case, explained.]

The plaintiffs' lawyer, john hughes, asked Mr. Fitzsimmons about the university's little-known "Dean's Interest List," each year of the children of prominent people, mostly white, whose chances of getting many are higher than those of other applicants , The plaintiffs say Asian-Americans suffer disproportionately in a rigged admissions system, which Harvard denies.

Mr. Fitzsimmons acknowledged on Wednesday the students on the list, which he manages, were often put forward by Harvard's development office, its fund-raising arm, and that some of wealthy families.

"Mr. Hughes asked."

The list.

"The list is not the same as it was" Mr. Fitzsimmons said.

Mr. Hughes then presented some emails that were addressed to the dean. One, from June 2013, had the subject line "My Hero." In it, David Ellwood, who was then the dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, told Mr. Fitzsimmons, "Once again you have done wonders." It went on He also congratulated the admissions dean on a donor who gave "major money for fellowships – before a decision from you!"

Another email from Roger Cheever, a development officer , talked about gifts totaling $ 8.7 million to Harvard and the phrases "is the grandson of" and "who is married to."

Another email in October 2014 came from a former tennis coach. The family had given $ 1.1 million over the previous four years, the email said.


During a break in the trial, Bill Lee, Harvard's lead counsel

He said there was no reason to come out of this, as a courtesy, when a candidate was not going to get In. And he noted that Asian Americans were becoming a growing part of the legacy and donor pools.

Mr. Lee questioned Mr Fitzsimmons later in the day, and he said he had an account of importance.

Mr. Fitzsimmons had emphasized this even to the plaintiffs, telling them, "We want to let people know that poor people as well as rich people can get into Harvard."

He was asked about his own story, and then turned into a poster child for Harvard's promise.

With Mr. Lee's prompting, Mr. Fitzsimmons said he graduated from Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Mass. His family, he said, ran a gas station and mom-and-pop store in nearby Weymouth.

"Where did you attend college?" Mr. Lee asked.

"At Harvard College, fully accredited at Cambridge, "Mr. Fitzsimmons said in his Boston accent, drawing laughter in the courtroom."

Harvard asked his family to pay for his education, he said.

In those days, he said, Harvard had few students of color, and they were the first in their families to go to college , A modest fraction received financial aid. Men outnumbered women, he said, four to one.

He graduated in 1967 and went to work for the university admissions office five years later.

Harvard, he said, "totally transformed my life. It opened up possibilities – I had no idea. "

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