Michelle Jones wasn’t the only applicant to be rejected from Harvard University this year. However, hers is in many ways a special case. While she was initially accepted by the history department of Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, her acceptance was ultimately overturned by Harvard’s administration. This move was in connection to the most interesting part of her case: Ms. Jones was only released in August of this year from the Indiana Women’s Prison after serving 20 years of a 50-year sentence for homicide. Although the legal system considered her sentence to be served in full, Harvard University—an elite academic institution—considered her past conviction as grounds for rejection. What does this say about the notion of reform and rehabilitation in the United States?
A recently released report from a Harvard panel of faculty members recommended that Harvard adopt an outright ban on student participation in unrecognized social clubs such as “Final Clubs,” fraternities, and sororities. These organizations have not had official recognition from Harvard since 1984, when such formal recognition was rescinded because these social clubs refused to end membership policies discriminating on the basis of gender. In May 2016, Harvard decided to penalize anyone who joins these single-gender social clubs by banning student members from “holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.” The report from the faculty panel takes the May 2016 policy to its natural conclusion: an outright ban.
Since 1947, the LSAT has been a dark cloud hanging over pre-law students. A student’s LSAT score and GPA have been the main considerations in the law school admissions process for almost 70 years. Law schools have become more and more focused on the mean of their LSAT acceptance scores because it determines their national ranking. Thus, students with low LSAT scores but other qualities may not be admitted to prestigious programs.