White students in Harvard’s new class will find themselves a minority for the first time in history

Accessible elitism.
Accessible elitism.
Image: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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It took a mere 380 years.

Come next month, Harvard’s student body will belie all the statues and plaques of uppity white men scattered across its campus. Its incoming freshman class is, for the first time, majority non-white: 50.9% of the students come from minority groups, which include Native Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Pacific Islanders, according to new data released by the university.

The milestone comes at a somewhat awkward time. On one hand, Harvard’s administration has made drastic changes in the last few years in attempts to bolster diversity and reshape its campus environment, which had garnered a reputation for being elitist and intolerant. The school recently shed slavery-evoking traditions, started up a task force to combat racism, and is now also considering banning its venerated final clubs to further equalize its social scene.

But on the other hand, American colleges and universities are currently swept up in multiple race-related controversies, including protests from the black community, lawsuits from Asian-American applicants claiming discrimination themselves, and a leak last week from the Justice Department showing that president Donald Trump’s administration plans to attack affirmative-action policies in college admissions. For those opposed to affirmative action, the new student body makeup of the oldest and arguably most prestigious school in the country will seem more a threat than a cause for celebration.

According to Harvard’s new dataset, the school had 39,506 applicants for the class of 2021, 2,038 of whom were admitted, making for an acceptance rate of 5.2%—one of the lowest on record for any US university. The minority total was 47.3% last year.