January 30th, 2014 | University

Alumni Magazine cover receives backlash

The January/February cover of the Yale Alumni Magazine, featuring a story on admissions and low-income students by David Zax ’06, has incited national criticism.

On the cover of the magazine, a white man in a pinstripe suite is picking fruit from a tree next to the headline: “Reaching beyond the low-hanging fruit.” The subtitle asserted that the University “seeks smart students from poor families. They’re out there — but hard to find.” Critics allege the image was tactless in equating low-income high-achieving high schools students as fruit waiting for the University to pluck.

The concerns were first raised by bloggers. Brooklyn College professor Corey Robin quipped on his blog that if the University was having a hard time finding low-income high-achieving students, “they should just come to one of my classrooms.”

Media outlets as varied as The Atlantic to the Huffington Post quickly picked up on the controversy. Eleanor Barkhorn of The Atlantic summarized the arguments of many when she wrote that the magazine had made two harmful claims: first, that the magazine had implied poor students were desirable goods to be flaunted rather than individual people and second, that the article implied the low-income students at Yale were not good enough.

YAM has since issued a clarifying statement in which the magazine conceded that “we didn’t hit the mark.” But YAM stood by the substance of the article, in which both the University President Peter Salovey and the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions were quoted extensively. Quinlan cited recent research that affirmed Zax’s thesis that many high-achieving low-income students do not even apply to selective colleges, let alone end up matriculating at them.

Zax’s article also referred to the major strides Anthony Marx ’81 and Catherine Hill GRD ’85 had made as the university presidents of Amherst College and Vassar College respectively in diversifying their student bodies.

The Yale Alumni Magazine is a publication governed by an independent corporation, Yale Alumni Publications, Inc.