The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 4.

The Common Ap handles race and ethnicity very differently today than it has in the past. After the standard question as to: “Are you Hispanic or Latino?” you have a lot more options. (Recall that members of any racial group can be Hispanic.)


Have any readers followed the Common Ap closely? I am fairly certain that the above approach is very different from what it was five years ago. Questions:

1) Is it new this year? Anyone know how or why? My sense is that there have been three major regimes in the last 20 years of college reporting on race. First, they had the standard boxes and a requirement that you only check one. Second (starting around 2010), they added a “two or more races option.” There was a lot of discussion about what that would mean for understanding, say, African-American enrollment over time. Third, they created the current version which allows maximal choice and details. det3You can check all 5 major race groupings. In fact, you can check all the boxes under each race grouping, i.e., China and India and Japan and so on. If you select one of the “other” boxes, you can provide further details.

2) Keep in mind that the Common Ap and the Common Data Set (pdf) now approach race very differently. (And what about federal reporting requirements, as recorded on IPEDS?) On the Common Data Set (and IPEDS?) the only non-standard race option is “Two or more races, non-Hispanic” and, if a person is listed as “Hispanic,” then no other box may also be checked. So, it is not obvious how colleges should (or will) map these new Common Ap responses to their Common Data Set submissions. For example, what if a student on the Common Ap checks the Hispanic box and the African-American box and the white box? (Perhaps his father is African heritage and was born in the Dominican Republic and his mother is white.) How will the College report him on the Common Data Set?

3) Here are the detailed options for the other major categories:


4) All of this will generate a remarkably rich data set which, sadly, will be difficult to connect to the results from previous years. I would be most curious about the breakdown among African-American applicants. What proportion are the children of immigrants?

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The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 3.

Does Williams discriminate against Asian-Americans? See this New York Times article for background.


Williams is 15% Asian-American, more than triple their share of the US college-age population. Hardly a prima facie case for discrimination. But Asian-Americans also do much better than other groups in high school grades, SAT scores and other measures beloved by Williams Admissions. Recall:


The raw number of Asian-Americans with Williams-caliber SAT scores (say, above 1450) is similar to the raw number of white students. (Of course, the proportion of the Asian-American student population with these scores is vastly higher.) Given this fact, shouldn’t the Williams class of 2020 have about the same raw number of Asian-American and white students? (The actual numbers are 297 white versus 74 Asian-American.)

Reasons to think that Williams does not discriminate:

First, athletes are much more likely to be white than Asian-American. As we have discussed, “tips” and “protects” are admitted outside of the normal admissions process. These 100 to 130 students should not be included as we try to understand the 297-to-74 discrepancy. Although some of these athletes are African-American/Hispanic, the vast majority are white. Only a handful are Asian-American. (We have no reason to think that, all else equal, Williams coaches favor whites.) Assume that there are 100 white athletes and 10 Asian-American. Leaving these students out of the totals means that the actual discrepancy is only 197-to-64.

Second, high quality Asian-Americans are much less likely to apply to Williams. This is surely true, right? Unfortunately, I have never seen good data on this, but, in many conversations with students at Harvard, it sure seems that the white students are much more likely to have at least considered, if not also applied to, Williams and/or other elite liberal arts college.

Third, Asian-Americans are less likely to enroll even if they apply and are accepted. This is undoubtedly true. (Contrary opinions welcome.) I have never met an Asian-American who turned down Harvard/Yale/Princeton for Williams or a place like it. I know of a dozen or more cases of white high school seniors who have done so. (Recall Diana Davis ’07 and Julia Sendor ’08.)

Could the role of athletic admissions and the preferences of Asian-American high school seniors be strong enough to explain the 297-to-74 ratio of white-to-Asian-American students? Perhaps! We now know that Williams, unlike Harvard, did not discriminate against Jews 100 years ago. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, unlike Harvard, don’t discriminate against Asian-Americans today?

Of course, the fact that Asian-Americans at Williams score about 20-30 points higher that white students on the math+verbal SAT (1505 versus 1480) does make one wonder. But maybe the athletic effect is enough to explain that? In fact, it does!

(297 * 1480 – 100 * 1430)/197 = 1505

Explanation of this calculation left as an exercise for the reader.

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The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 2.

What counts as Hispanic?

Recall this 2005 comment:

[Mr. Pallo, my college counselor] suggested that, on the Common Applications, I identify myself as Puerto Rican.

Depending on how you reckon, to say I am Puerto Rican is a half-truth or completely untrue. My mother was born there and raised in NYC since age six or so, and my father couldn’t be called anything but Caucasian. On other surveys, I’d sometimes checked the Puerto Rican and White boxes, sometimes just White.

I was bothered by Mr. Pallo’s suggestion, but I’d learned to trust him, and my parents supported his suggestion. A year ago, in fact, they had asked if I would use my mother’s maiden name, Reyes, hyphenated with my last name, Landsman, in my applications. I had flatly refused that. Needless to say, when I discussed my counselor’s suggestion with them, they supported him.

I asked Mr. Pallo if I could check both boxes. He responded with something along the lines of: “My fear is that that would be passed over, that someone would see ‘White’ and ‘Puerto Rican’ would be ignored.” After little more deliberation, I decided to trust him, and count it a small cost. So in that one question, I was Puerto Rican, though nothing else in my applications referred to that status.

Sure enough, I was admitted to Williams. Early freshman year, I received a letter from the Admissions Office. It stated that I had declared myself a minority on my application, specifically Puerto Rican. It asked if I still wanted to be considered so, and if not, to contact them and say otherwise. I thought about this a while. I did not particularly feel Puerto Rican, never have, and still don’t. Mom only spoke Spanish at home when she was being cute, or angry at us. I am not close with my PR family. But I saw no reason to take what I saw as a small risk of some kind of retribution, and I left Admissions with its original impressions.

So I was one of the however many “Latinos” in my year, though I doubt anyone at Williams outside of Bascom knew it.

For the class of 2016, Williams claimed (pdf) 78 Hispanics in a US student population of 516, or 15%. You can look up the names of the graduates in the 2016-2017 course catalog. Check them out! You will find lots of names that are, incontestably, Hispanic: Raventos, Cendejas, Partida and so on. But (sadly?), there are only 55 last names that are more likely than not Hispanic and only another 6 that are often Hispanic: Castellano, Moran, Sime, and so on. But 61 is not 78!

Part of the explanation, of course, is that Hispanic students are more likely to drop out than other students. But it would hardly be surprising if the scenario described above — Hispanic as far as the Williams Administration is concerned but just another white kid as far as your fellow students know — describes 20% of the Hispanic population at Williams.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 1.

Key plot:


Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis.

The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans . . .

Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’03 would probably point out that the 15% number is not the relevant benchmark because, for starters, it does not adjust for the differential rate of high school graduation across races. Since only 69% of blacks graduate from high school (compared to 86% of whites), blacks do not make up anywhere near to 15% of the college-age high school graduates in America. Also relevant is that blacks are less likely that whites to take the achievement tests which Williams requires. They make up only 13% of the population in the SAT and the ACT. They are also much less likely to attend, through no fault of their own, high schools which provide adequate preparation for the rigors of a Williams education.

Put all this together and I bet that Williams would claim that our current 10% result (albeit only 8% for the class of 2020) is fairly similar to the population of high school seniors from which Williams draws its students. A similar argument would apply to the under-representation of Hispanics at Williams.

And that is hardly a surprise! Recall that Williams has an explicit goal — not an illegal quota! — to have a student body which “relects” or “mirrors” the racial breakdown of America.

Amherst [to its credit?] has a much smaller percentage of white students (51%) compared to Williams at 64%. Pomona does even better (?) at 40%. I suspect that this difference has nothing to do with the preferences of people like Creighton and Falk. They love white people no more than the folks who run Amherst and Pomona. (Contrary opinions welcome!) Even if all three schools have the same standards, Williams will always lose out because Pomona has a much easier time yielding Hispanics from California and Amherst probably does better among blacks because of its (much?) less rural location.

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Via Facebook:

We would like to invite you to a Town Hall Meeting with members of the Black community on campus and the Black Student Union.

Topics of Discussion Will Include:

– The relationship between Athlete and POC culture on campus
– Racism within the Dean’s Office
– An event that involved a fellow student and the law.

We encourage you to attend and participate in this meeting so that we as a Black Community can come to a consensus as to how we can continue to help each other by working together towards shared success despite any differences that we may have. We hope that each person that attends this meeting will leave with: a better understanding of any issues raised, a better understanding of the dynamics of the black community as a whole, and with further steps towards positive change.

We would like to remind you to come prepared and ready to have a civil debate and nothing less. The conversation will be moderated by the BSU Board and its faculty affiliates.

We have included some additional information on the topics that are going to be discussed, and encourage everyone to take a look at these materials before the meeting.



Looking forward to seeing you there,
The Board

Any readers who attend the meeting should give us a report.

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trump_wallSome chips on the table as Trump makes moves.

 Perhaps another discussion at Williams like this one 9 November, 2015 might add some interesting views on the perception of legacies: positive v negative.

Looking back at the numerous legislative fights, years of partisan polarization, and disputes over issues ranging from healthcare to a nuclear Iran, how should we think about Obama—his presidency, his achievements, his shortcomings?  What kind of leadership has Obama exercised?  What type of legacy will he leave?  What sorts of lessons should we take from his presidency?  Come listen as three keen observers of Obama and astute analysts of American politics answer these questions as they discuss race, the economy, the War on Terror, and more.

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The mountains call us
In their sun-dappled splendor.
Let’s get out and play!

Adam Falk
President and Professor
Williams College

From Scott Lewis, Director of the Outing Club:

Visit to see the list of hikes and on-campus events AND to check for any updates should the weather suddenly change!

Mountain Day is a celebration of community and place.  We would like to emphasize that Mountain Day is a day off for enjoying company, music, the all campus picnic and the splendor of our surroundings!
(A huge thank you to Dining Services for all their work on this day)

Mountain Day Accessibility Vans
Full transport to Stone Hill and Stony Ledge on Mountain Day is available- there will also be seating at both locations. Please email Phacelia Cramer (pjc2) with questions or to reserve a seat on the vans to Stone Hill, Stony Ledge, or both!

A quick highlight reel of the schedule:

10 a.m. – hike from Chapin to Stone Hill, performances by student groups, refreshments provided

11 a.m – 1 p.m.  community picnic on Chapin Lawn
Administrative offices should consider closing for an hour to enjoy this campus-wide celebration.

12:30 p.m. – bus transportation to Stoney Ledge and Hopper trailheads (buses parked along Mission Park Drive behind Chapin Hall). Since the bus will not bring you directly to Stoney Ledge, please be prepared for changing weather and temperatures as you hike up AND down the mountain 2 miles each way. You should have hiking shoes for wet, muddy, slick terrain and bring a filled water bottle!

2:45 p.m. – Stoney Ledge performances by student groups, refreshments provided

4:45 p.m. – bus transportation from Stoney Ledge and Hopper trailheads to Mission Park Drive

Hope you can all seize the day and take time out to be outside!!

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Even if you disagree with the goals of the Divest Williams effort, you have to admire their commitment and moxie.


From the Record last April:

On Friday, Divest Williams staged a mock wedding between the College and the fossil fuels industry to protest the College’s investment in that industry and call for divestment from it.

The wedding, which was attended by roughly 150 students, faculty, and staff members, followed mock weddings staged over the past few years by divestment activists at Whitman College and the Universities of Washington, Montana and Oregon.

Max Harmon ’19 played the part of the bride – the College, wearing a cow costume and veil. Linda Worden ’19, dressed as President Adam Falk, escorted him down the aisle. In front of them, Phacelia Cramer ’19 scattered fake hundred dollar bills like rose petals. Lili Bierer ’19 played the groom, representing the fossil fuels industry by wearing a suit adorned with the logos of large oil and gas companies and a tall hat made of smoke stacks.

Well done! Read the whole thing. However, there was at least one sour note:

wtrThe bridesmaids included Haley Bosse ’20, MaKaila DeSano-Smith ’18 and Suiyi Tang ’19, dressed as Michael Eisenson ’77, O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Martha Williamson ’77 — three members of the Board of Trustees. The Board announced in 2015 that it would not be divesting from fossil fuels. Halvorsen stated at this year’s open forum with the trustees that the matter was a closed issue.

With the ceremony over, the wedding party and many audience members sang, “We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll divestment on … If trustees are in the way, we’re gonna roll it over them … If Falk gets in the way, we’re gonna roll it over him. We’re gonna roll divestment on!”

The mock wedding was one of Divest Williams’ more humorous actions, according to Worden. She said it is “important to employ different tactics throughout the year” because “different tactics appeal to different audiences. As a group, it keeps energy going to have a variety of approaches.”

Is Divest Williams really going after Martha Williamson’s ’77 daughters? That is unbelievably rude. If I were Dean of the College, I would have a few choice words for Suiyi Tang ’19 and the rest of Divest Williams. The children of fellow Ephs are off-limits — whatever the depths of your disagreements may be.

Of course, the College should (would?) never punish a student for engaging in free speech, but an education in the costs/benefits of such tactics would be useful. There is no better way to get the trustees to ignore you forevermore than to go after one of them in such a personal way.

Is there some backstory here? Did Williamson, in a previous meeting with Divest Williams, mention the race of her daughters?

Haley Bosse’s ’20 costume was also . . . edgy . . . in a way that she might not have realized or intended . . .

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At least three current students have reported to EphBlog that professors in a for-now-unnamed department warn current students they advise to either a) not take a course and/or b) distance themselves from one particular professor due to a number of sexual harassment complaints, including “coming onto” students during office hours and attempting to engage in other inappropriate behavior. Despite the complaints, which have come at least since the 2013-2014 academic year, this professor is still currently in the employment of the College and is teaching a class this semester. Notably, this professor only conducts class on a limited number of days a week when they are allowed on campus, a measure enacted since the 2014-2015 academic year in response to the complaints. At least for the last year, this professor has not held office hours for their classes.


1. What is this professor still doing in a Williams classroom?!?! As an example of what we don’t want students to become? Students come to the College precisely because of the learning that happens from the close relationships we develop with our professors around the subjects that excite our passions. To engage in such gross behavior and take advantage of students in that way is to spit on the spirit of Williams and the rest of its wonderful teachers. And, if for a moment we entertain the thought that this professor learned from their mistakes, we ought to ask ourselves why their colleagues still feel the need to warn students. And on that note…

2. … for current professors to warn current students against taking a class with their colleague is a big deal. It means that they a) know about this professor’s behavior and b) think it is egregious and recurrent enough to explicitly dissuade students from taking their classes. A current student was warned by another professor in the department as recently as spring of 2017, when deciding classes for this fall 2017 semester. If this professor’s behavior did not continue in some form since 2014, do you think the current student would have been warned?

3. We need to know who knew about this and when. Note that for this professor to a) still be on campus despite their colleagues knowing; b) teach in a limited capacity; c) get away with not holding office hours (I have never had nor heard of a professor in any department that did not have them), someone higher up had to know. Classroom scheduling is handled by the Registrar, so it’s likely that someone in the administration knew of this arrangement too. Someone somewhere made the decision to keep this professor on the College’s payroll. We need to know who and for what possible reasons they have continued to let students share a classroom with this professor.

4. Recall the College’s Ending Sexual Assault video. Adam Falk says (around 0:16) “What’s fundamental to our work at Williams is that everyone who comes to the College comes to an environment in which they can thrive.” Do you think this is what he had in mind?

5. Do readers think that EphBlog should reveal the name of the department of the professor?

More to come as this story develops.

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Dear Ephs,

Over the past two weeks, we have heard from many of you with thoughts and opinions about what to look for in our next President. We are winding down the input gathering phase but wanted to highlight a couple of final ways to engage with the process.
  • Fill out this survey! Information provided here will be used to help draft the job description. Please fill it out by midnight on October 18.
  • Stop by our table in Paresky tomorrow and Thursday at lunch! We will be there from 11:45 to 1:00 both days.
  • Email us! You can even just reply to this thread.
  • Have another idea? Let us know! We always want to hear how we can best get your opinions.
Thank you to all those who have already spoken to us, wrote a sticky note or sent an email! We have had many interesting conversations and look forward to many more.
Enjoy the short week!
Sarah Hollinger and Ben Gips
Student Representatives, Presidential Search Committee
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Useful update on Title IX from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 formally rescinded the Obama administration’s commands that universities use unfair rules in sexual-misconduct investigations—rules that had the effect of finding more students guilty of sexual assault. And she appears also to be preparing for far more forceful due-process protections down the road.

Those follow-on regulations could require schools to presume that accused students are innocent unless proven guilty, to allow rigorous cross-examination of accusers, and perhaps also to grant the accused the unqualified right to appeal adverse decisions, and more.

Meanwhile, the modest improvements that DeVos included in the “interim guidance” of September 22 let universities know how to comply with the Education Department’s requirements during the time between the end of the Obama decrees and the final adoption of new, carefully considered regulations.

Read the whole thing.

At a recent meeting with alumni, President Falk suggested the following: First, the College had already incorporated most of the suggestions on the Obama era guidance, even before that guidance was made, so DeVos decision really doesn’t effect Williams. (Is that true? Perhaps the most important change involved the change in burden of proof standards, and I don’t remember that changing before Obama’s guidance.) Second, Falk suggested that, despite whatever DeVos might suggest, the College would continue to do what it thinks best to fight the scourge of sexual assault at Williams.

Has anyone who has gone through the details of the Safety Dance case think that Williams is on the right track? I don’t.

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Interesting comment:

As a current student, I’m tired of the narrative that the kids who are pulled in largely through “other” factors are equally as academically qualified. This has been demonstrated to be empirically false- statistics do not lie. The validity of the op-ed thus rests upon whether or not other highly nebulous factors should supersede this lessened academic qualification. I would like to think that this could be the case- but it seems to me that the vast majority of students simply self-stratify, so that diversity based benefits are minimized. Additionally, the constant threat of being lampooned for mis-speaking makes it simply not worth it to engage on controversial issues. I would love to have discussions about what white privilege is and about the extent to which it pervades our society, for example. I think that’s really interesting. But why would I ever do that? The benefits are dwarfed by the risks, especially for the people who would benefit the most!. This is why, ironically, things like uncomfortable learning would make campus in a way safer for minorities- there would be a culture that made white people’s “cost benefit analysis” differently weighted, so that they might be willing to engage and might learn something from discussion! Additionally, this would go a long way towards increasing the actual benefits of diversity, as is discussed above.

Good points. I miss the WSO discussion section! Ten years ago, a student would have left this comment there, and started off a thoughtful discussion among Ephs with a wide variety of views. Now, nothing.

There is a great senior thesis to be written about self-stratification among Williams students.

Here [Data removed by request from Williams.] is Williams housing data for this year. Do you see much self-stratification? Should we spend time going through it?

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berkshires_foliage_smFrom the Boston Globe …

The Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts: Oct. 6-9

Cambridge commuters may know Route 2 as a source of endless frustration and gridlock. But out in central and western Massachusetts, the highway becomes the Mohawk Trail, a 60-mile path through the Berkshires from Orange to Williamstown.

Photo credit

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Purpose of this post is to gather together (and save) some relevant links/commentary related to athletic admissions. The best EphBlog introduction is still this 2008 post. Key background readings include the 2002 MacDonald Report (pdf) and the 2009 Athletics Committee Report.

Summary: There are 66 “tips” — recruited athletes in each Williams class. These are students specifically selected by coaches and promised admission, almost always via early decision. They would not have been accepted by Williams if they did not appear on the coach’s list. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below. The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score. Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

Back in 2009 I had an off-the-record exchange with a Williams coach about some of these details. Much may have changed in the interim, but these are some of what I was told (slightly edited for clarity):

President Morty Schapiro cut slots, raised the standards for athletes and lowered the yield for athletic priority slots to 1 for 1. Before Morty coaches were allowed 2 admits for every matriculant (as long as they applied regular admission vs. early decision). Coaches were not penalized for over-yielding. Before Morty protects were 4’s. Before Morty certain higher profile sports were given 7’s. After Morty tips were cut from 72 to 66 (the cut was actually much deeper as the 72 number was more like 90 with the over-yield). Protect level was raised to 3. Yield was lowered to 1 for 1. Free alumni athletic level was raised from 4 to 3. No 7’s and very few 6’s for any team other than football and football 7’s/6’s had to be socio-ec (don’t think the socio-ec part was enforced). Minority admits were not effected by these changes.

Football got the most lower academic-rated kids, followed by men’s and women’s hockey and then all the other sports were pretty much the same with crew, tennis and squash having the highest standards. If memory serves, football got 14, men’s and women’s hockey 5 each, men’s and women’s soccer 3 each and every other team 1 or 2 (baseball-2, softball-2, men’s and women’s lacrosse-2, men’s and women’ basketball-2, men’s and women’s tennis-1, field hockey-2, squash and crew-protect only. all teams got a “protect” (high band) in addition to the tips…..not sure if men’s and women’s swimming, skiing and track got 2 or 3

Men’s hockey was the only team without a protect (not sure about the women). That happened when the department slots got cut and Bill Kangas gave up the protect to keep 5 tips. Men’s and women’s tennis get 1 tip and 1 protect.

Athletic 2’s were admitted free as were alumni 3’s. As a general rule of thumb under represented minorities (black/Hispanic) that were admissible on an athletic priority list by white standards did not count against the coach a long as they were “embracing their ethnicity.” My experience was that URMs did not count as tips unless they were really low in a level 1 sport. Hispanics were a little dicier as I recall. Caribbean, or inter city American types more likely to qualify vs Mexicans, Europeans or South Americans of Spanish ancestry.

Comments from current Williams coaches on the accuracy of these details would be much appreciated!

Best recent overview of NESCAC athletic recruiting is this three-part 2014 series from the Bowdoin Orient: 1, 2, and 3. All the articles are below the break, saved since the Orient’s does not archive them.

From a 2013 article about lacrosse recruiting:

NESCAC institutions use a banding system that the athletic and admissions departments use to rank players who seek admission. The banding breaks players up based on GPA, Class Rank, SAT (or ACT) and SAT 2 and then categorizes them as A Band, B Band or C Band. Over a 4 year period, schools slot a certain amount of players per band. The system allows for more flexibility than the Ivy’s Academic Index but limits weaker academic applicants. Schools are generally given 4-7 slots per year. At a school like Williams, the class may be made up of 4 A Band students and 2 B Band students. The same B Band student at Williams could be considered an A Band student at a slightly less selective school like Bates.

So here is a general outline of A, B and C Bands for NESCAC schools.

A Band
SAT Scores 700+ average all above 670
SAT II 710
GPA: 92+ GPA, Almost All As
Class Rank: Top 5%
Courses: 4+ APs, Honors Classes

B Band
SAT scores 650+ average, all above 620
SAT II 640
GPA: 88+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs
Class Rank: Top 15%
Courses: Few AP Courses, Honors

C Band
SAT scores 630+ average, all above 590
SAT II 600
GPA: 85+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs, occasional Cs
Class Rank: Top 20%
Courses: Honors

Athletic preferences in admissions can be confusing because of the insider terminology. Within Williams, we talk about “tips” and “protects.” Across NESCAC, the discussion centers around “bands.”

See more complete discussion from this 2010 presentation (ppt) about hockey recruiting.

Summary: No one really cares if you are a star athlete in a sport for which Williams does not field a team. No one cares if you are a star athlete in a sport we do compete in unless the coach puts you on her list. (If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an all-state goalie and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on her list.) If you are on the coach’s list, then she will expect you to apply early decision. (That way, she can be certain that you are coming.) If she tells you that you will be accepted than, 95%+ of the time, you will be. Williams coaches have a reputation, which they have every incentive to maintain, of playing these straight with applicants. Read Playing the Game for more details.

Below the break are the full text of the articles from the Orient. Highly recommended.


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The most annoying aspect of the debate over admissions is the College’s refusal to be honest with the community over the standards/processes that it uses. The second most annoying aspect is the Administrations laziness in not trying hard enough to recruit hard-to-enroll groups like high scoring African-Americans. The third most annoying aspect is today’s topic: the Record‘s failure to report the news.

Consider the Record‘s editorial on the infamous Best-College-in-the-World (BCW) op-ed:

The piece’s categorization of the College’s current admissions process as one in which student are labeled as “academic” or “other,” and where those comprising the “other” category are athletes, racial minorities or low-income students, is both misguided and, more crucially, demeaning.

“Misguided” and “demeaning” are, perhaps, relevant adjectives to include in an editorial. But intelligent readers are looking for adjectives like “inaccurate” or “incomplete.” Does the op-ed provide an accurate description of how the admissions process works at Williams or doesn’t it? Without that information, it is hard to judge anything else. And, if it is accurate, then adjectives like “demeaning” are confusing at best.

And it is the Record‘s primary function to inform its readers about how Williams works, to report, you know, the News. Hint to Record reporters: Start here. A fair complaint about Williams, relative to schools like Harvard, is that much of our conversation occurs at the level of an (excellent!) prep school, a place where, not only is the Administration rarely challenged (recent examples here and here) but where the details of actual policy are kept secret. Compare news stories in the Crimson versus those in the Record. It is too weep.

Of course, the Crimson has more people and resources than the Record. It is a daily, not weekly, effort. But there is no excuse for the Record to devote three pages of commentary to admissions at Williams while, at the same time, not explaining to its readers how admissions works.

The editorial concludes with:

Additionally, it is well understood that SAT scores are a poor metric of the quality of academic work that will be undertaken when a student comes to the College.

Then why does Williams use them! I don’t control Williams admissions. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton ’03 and Dick Nesbitt ’74 do. Why do they not only use the SAT/ACT but actually require that all applicants take these, and similar, standardized tests? Again, I am not so much angry with the Record as I am embarrassed for them. And, for the record, SAT scores (and Academic Rating) are an outstanding predictor of the grades that students will get at Williams.

Almost every sentence in the editorial is either factually suspect or childishly naive. Worth a week to go through it line-by-line?

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Via a post to the class of 2018 Facebook Group from Emily O’brien, we find this petition, now interspersed with my comments:

It has come to our attention that last night, around 5 pm, a junior was taken into custody at CSS and then at the Williamstown Police Department. While he was in holding, CSS searched his room. After the search, said student was received drug charges from WPD and disciplinary charges from the College.

The interaction of the College with WPD is a topic we have covered on occasion, but perhaps not to the depth that we should have. I assume that there is some standard operating procedure involving room searches. I think that there is an arrest involving WPD about once per year, almost always involving drugs.

The punishment that this student may incur follows a long history of racist and classist practices in disciplinary enforcement at Williams.

True? There is a great senior thesis or Record article to be written about the history of “disciplinary enforcement at Williams.” Who will write it? My sense is that African-American males are much more likely to be caught up in these situations than other students.

The college continues to search for and accept students from low-income households and people of color who fuel their problematic “diversity” statistics without actually caring about the lives of those same students.

Harsh but fair. The College loves to brag about diversity, but refuses to discuss the fact that students in the bottom 20% of enrollees — more or less academic rating less than 4 and/or SAT less than 1300 — do much worse than other students. If such students only graduate at, say, the rate of 75%, isn’t the College doing something wrong in admitting them? Or at least in admitting them without being transparent about their odds of graduation?

How can the college claim it is a “diverse” and “inclusive” community while continuously criminalizing and punishing low-income students and students of color, specifically black students. The student who is in potential trouble is a black student from a low-income household.

Because the College doesn’t really care about them. Emily O’brien is displaying a touching degree of naivete to think otherwise. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton love to primp and preen as oh-so-virtuous, but, when the cops hit the door, it is obvious whose side they are on.

Wouldn’t this student have been better off if he had not been accepted at Williams?

This petition calls for a few things:

1) Williams College should drop the charges against said student, and provide the support necessary for said student to fight the legal charges he incurred after CSS searched his room.

Once the WPD is involved, the College can’t “drop the charges.” Only the District Attorney gets to decide who is charged and who is not. (Of course, the College, in its interactions with local power brokers has favors it can grant and call in, so they might be able to cajole the DA into not pressing charges.

Independent of the DA, Williams has little choice but to enforce its rules about drags against this student in the same way that it does against other students. I think that this generally involves a one or two semester suspension.

2) Williams College should hold a community meeting that is charged with re-thinking the disciplinary processes it utilizes to criminalize and punish those at this school that are already most marginalized.

EphBlog votes Yes! The more open discussion there is about the College’s policies, the better.

Advice to Emily: Try to get College Council or the Gargoyles or the BSU involved. They probably have the power to force a community meeting.

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sondheim-miranda-1507306370 ….  Getty Images/Forward Montage

 Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda has collaborated with an all-star lineup of artists to release “Almost Like Praying,” a hurricane relief single in support of Puerto Rico. Proceeds from the song, which was released Friday morning, will go to the Hispanic Federation UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund. In addition, YouTube will make a contribution to the organization.

Recorded in less than a week, “Almost Like Praying” features a wide spectrum of artists, including Gina Rodriguez, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Luis Fonsi, Marc Anthony, Rita Moreno, and many more. An accompanying video, available through the official Atlantic Records YouTube channel, features footage of Miranda traveling to New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Puerto Rico to record with each artist. With samples from Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim’s “Maria,” music and lyrics for the track were created by Miranda and include references to more than 70 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Miranda, who tweeted that President Trump is “going straight to hell” for his response to the disaster in Puerto Rico, told USA Today, “I was very glad to have something to do while that was happening. I was hoping for an announcement of additional troops on the ground, additional aid. I read about it after. In the absence of that, we have to just keep focusing on our work.”     

       …    Variety  October 6, 2017

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To the Williams Community,

I write to follow up on my letter in early September regarding the search for Williams’ 18th President. The Presidential Search Committee has begun its work, with the assistance of a senior team from Spencer Stuart, a national executive search firm with expertise in higher education leadership searches, whom we retained to assist in the process. Members of the Committee along with the Spencer Stuart team have held a series of on-campus forums with faculty, staff, students and alumni in order to answer questions and, especially, solicit ideas from the Williams community regarding the search. As I indicated in my last note, information about the Presidential Search Committee, Spencer Stuart and, as we proceed, other matters related to this important work can be found on our search website.

As another important step in the input gathering phase, the Committee has prepared a survey to allow the broadest possible participation from our community. I encourage you to use it to share your views, which will help guide the drafting of a prospectus to be shared with potential candidates, and also help to guide the Committee in the process of interviewing and of refining the candidate pool. In order to be able to incorporate your input, the Committee asks for a few minutes of your time to complete the survey by October 18th.

In addition, the Committee welcomes nominations for the position. If you would like to suggest a candidate, please send an email with any supporting materials to the confidential address:

On behalf of the Presidential Search Committee, we thank you for taking part in this survey and look forward to updating you on our progress over the coming months.


Michael Eisenson ’77
Chair, Williams College Board of Trustees

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Two interesting comments from Muddy:

And this can be accomplished only if the “others” on these historically Waspy campuses exist is such a critical mass that they feel empowered and heard in a meaningful way. My feeling (I’ve worked my entire career on college campuses) is that the current numbers of kids of color at Williams and elsewhere is pretty much at the minimum it needs to be in order for the entire community to benefit from the immeasurable good their presence adds to the educational quality everyone enjoys.

If you really mean “at a minimum,” then I have a deal for you! Let’s replace 25 (or 50!) of the white students in the bottom admission bands (say, AR 4 and below) with 25 (or 50!) Asian-American (or Asian-Asian) applicants with AR 1 that the College currently rejects. This would increase the “current numbers of kids of color at Williams” while, simultaneously, improving the academic quality of each class. Since many (most?) such white admits are athletic tips, the cost might be a few more losses in certain sports, but, even then, Williams would still have an above average athletic programs.

I am honestly curious what you think of this proposal.

The best, most aspiring, most intrinsically interesting white kids will not generally feel compelled by a campus that minimizes the kinds of values I am talking about or one that is seen to be backtracking on its commitment to diversity. Less kids of color means less high value students of every background.

Perhaps, but I doubt it. Consider Middlebury and Caltech, two very different schools, both of which place much less emphasis on African-American enrollment than Williams currently does. Middlebury is at 4% and Caltech at 2% for the class of 2020. I have never heard of a white (or Asian-American!) student reporting that such low African-American enrollment was a reason why they turned down Middlebury/Caltech. Have you? I find the whole thing absurd because the number of white/Asian students who are even aware that Williams is 8% (twice as much as Middlebury!) and Amherst is at 12% (6 times more than Caltech!) is, essentially, zero.

But, as always, contrary opinions welcome. Do you know a white/Asian-American student who turned down Middlebury or Caltech because there were too few African-Americans?

The most subtle argument involves critical mass. While I have never met a white/Asian-American student who knew/cared about differential percentage of African-American enrollment across Middlebury/Williams/Amherst, I know that many African-American students themselves care a great deal. So, perhaps if we didn’t accept 20 or so African-American students from AR 6 and below, we would not be able to enroll the AR 3 and above African-American students whom we most want. Perhaps. Informed commentary welcome!

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Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 5.40.37 PM                     Williams_seal

 In the spirit of Wikileaks, may I submit for avid readers a preview of what may be next on your favorite blog. The first column are the titles of ‘scheduled’ posts. The second are ‘drafts’ being worked on. All of the ‘scheduled’ are Dave’s. All of the ‘drafts’ are Dave’s with the exception of ‘no title’ and ‘College’s Sexual Assault Policy’

 I do this as a service to readers waiting for the next topic. I know Dave won’t mind given his own questionable use of materials

My fervent hope is that no one reads this blog except the disillusioned, the dyspeptic, and those given to the dissection of data.


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This comment merits further discussion.

There are two issues with that [loosening the international quota]. The first is that international students have considerably lower graduation/retention rates than any other demographic group at the top schools. That’s not a consequence of ability but rather of uncertainty: financial aid for international students often doesn’t increase in later years, there is a geographic barrier, and foreign political/economic situations can complicate their coming back.

False. Here is the latest data on graduation rates:


International student 6-year graduation rate is about the same as that of white/Asian students, as we would expect. African-American/Hispanic students are about twice as likely to fail to graduate from Williams in 6 years.

Now, this data has evolved over time and you may be right about both earlier periods and about 4-year graduation rates. But, even then, a big driver is “diversity” among the international students. Not all international students are AR 1, after all. Indeed, I would not be surprised if some (many?) international students are AR 3 and below, if they come from the sorts of countries (not China, South Korea, England, et cetera) that Williams likes.

When I recommend increasing international enrollment, I mean for AR 1 students. Speaking roughly, I would start with about 25 more students from China/Korea/Japan.

The second issue is that the international pool is not as strong as it is constantly made out to be. Many of these students are not informed about how competitive US colleges are, so you get a lot of weak applicants applying when they have no chance of getting in. This is backed by the statistics of need-blind for international students schools like MIT and Amherst: the international acceptance rate is a third of the domestic one, even though these colleges have made assurances to not let ability to pay influence the likelihood of getting in. Many colleges (Williams, Wesleyan, Swarthmore) report a similar pattern: an international acceptance rate 1/4-1/2 that of domestic students.

Is the acceptance rate low because the pool is weaker or because these schools, like Williams, have a quota on international students?

Everyone that I have discussed this with — although contrary opinions are welcome — suggests that there are, at least 50 AR 1 international applicants (many not requiring any financial aid) who are currently rejected by Williams but who would enroll if given the chance. Do you disagree?

Even if students stand out academically, it isn’t enough. Prominent international universities like India Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University admit solely by performance on a test. The UK institutions- Cambridge, UCL, LSE, Oxford- don’t care about extracurricular activities at all. On the contrary, The top US colleges don’t just want perfect scorers. Williams doesn’t either. As a residential college, it wants committed students who will engage critically and meaningfully with their peers and their community. As a distinguished and scholarly place, it wants those who are committed to learning and open to having their viewpoints expanded and challenged across a broad spectrum of fields. Those things can only be evaluated by subjective perspectives, not the SAT.

False. First, there is no evidence that AR 1 applicants are, relative to AR 4 applicants, any less willing to “engage critically and meaningfully with their peers and their community.” If anything AR 1 students are more willing, or, at the very least they are much more willing to engage in academic work, and with a talent for doing so.

Second, are you arguing that the current Williams admissions process uses “subjective perspectives” in evaluating candidates? As if! Or are you arguing that it should? Perhaps. I am always happy to entertain a discussion of changes in the admissions process.

Not to say that Williams has done enough or that it should be content with where it is- the simple fact that you have 8400 students applying compared to 40000 at some top universities means that there is a significant cohort of good fit, high stats international students who should apply and largely be admitted. But here’s another question: how will Williams convince them to apply and attend over HYPS + other Ivies + other top 20 universities? The LAC name brand is virtually non-existent outside of the States, even for Williams and Amherst (beyond maybe Oxford/Cambridge/London).

Williams doesn’t need to convince 40,000 (or 40) high schools students (who don’t apply) to apply. We have plenty of applicants already! We just need to change who we admit and who we reject.

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Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 10.01.45 AM


Rather nice line drawing of campus landmarks.

I’ve attached my input beneath the fold.  (more…)

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Some readers doubted whether or not there were enough high quality applicants (currently) rejected by Williams who could be admitted as part of this plan. Allay those fears! There are hundreds of rejected AR 1s (and even more AR 2s) who would love to attend Williams if we were to accept them. Evidence:

Recall the 2005 Recipe (pdf) article:

The admission staff wait-listed or rejected nearly 300 of the 675 applicants to whom they had given their top “Academic 1” rating — a pool of students that, on average, ranked in the top 3 percent of their high school classes and had SAT scores of 1545.

Note Adam Falk’s report that, in the fall of 2013, Williams received more than 1,200 applications from students with academic ratings of 2. Since Williams accepts many fewer than 1,000 students in total from this bucket, there must also be hundreds of AR 2s who are rejected.

Amherst, to its credit, is much more transparent with its admissions data. Consider:


Amherst admissions are not Williams admissions and SAT verbal scores are not the same thing as academic ratings. But, if there are almost 2,000 students with 700 and above verbal SAT scores who are rejected by Amherst, then there must be at least a few hundred AR 1 students rejected by Williams.

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Map of Spanish speaking countries

From the Williams College Spanish Course listings:

Our graduates have gone on to secure prestigious Fulbright teaching and research grants in Latin America and Spain, and many have used their linguistic and cultural training as they pursue careers in fields including law, health care, journalism, labor and community organizing, education, and doctoral degrees in various fields.

This may be even more true today after the President’s speech in Puerto Rico, as fluent Spanish speakers grasped for the exact word:  el pendejo, el huevón, el pelotudo.

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Williams admissions work the same as admissions at most other elite colleges. If you understand the process at Swarthmore or Princeton, then you understand 99% of what happens at Williams. There are a variety of books about admissions at elite colleges, e.g., The Gatekeepers and A is for Admission. They capture 90% of the details. (These books are somewhat dated and may guild the lily a bit when it comes to race.) Williams Magazine published (pdf) an excellent 2005 article, “Recipe for Success,” about admissions. Virtually everything in it is true, but it also leaves out many of the more controversial aspects.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the Williams admissions process works in reality, not how it should work.

First, the most important part of the admissions process is the “academic rating,” often abbreviated as “AR.” From the Recipe article:

The full-time admission staffers, plus a handful of helpers like Phil Smith ’55 (Nesbitt’s predecessor as director), pore over the folders. Two readers examine each folder independently, without seeing each other’s comments, and assess them in three major ways. Each applicant gets an academic rating from 1 to 9 that focuses heavily on his or her high school grades, standardized test scores, the rigor of his or her academic program within the context of the school setting and the strength of teacher recommendations.

Nurnberg ’09 et al (pdf) provide a similar description:

After evaluating the applicant’s SAT scores, high school grades, essays, class rank, high school academic program, support from the high school administration, AP test score — or IB test scores — and teacher recommendations, admissions readers assign the applicant an academic rating from the scale 1 — 9, with 1 being the best.

Amherst, and all other elite colleges, use essentially the same system. The College does not like to reveal the details of these ratings, but we know from Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis that:

While the academic reader ratings are somewhat subjective, they are strongly influenced by the following guidelines.

  • Academic 1: at top or close to top of HS class / A record / exceptional academic program / 1520 – 1600 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 2: top 5% of HS class / mostly A record / extremely demanding academic program / 1450 – 1520 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 3: top 10% of HS class / many A grades / very demanding academic program / 1390 – 1450 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 5: top 20% of HS class / B record / demanding academic program / 1260 – 1320 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 6: top 20% of HS class / B record / average academic program / 1210 – 1280 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 7: top 25% of HS class / mostly B record / less than demanding program / 1140 – 1220 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 8: top 33% of HS class / mostly B record or below / concern about academic program / 1000 – 1180 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 9: everyone else.

These ratings are high-school-quality adjusted. At an elite school like Boston Latin or Exeter, you can be in the top 5% or even lower and still be an AR 1. At a weaker high school, you need to be the valedictorian. At the weakest high schools (bottom 25%?), even the valedictorian is almost never considered smart enough to go to Williams, at least in the absence of top standardized test scores.

Note that the working paper (pdf) from which these details are taken was co-authored by then-Williams president Morty Schapiro, so one hopes that it is accurate! Nurnberg’s senior thesis included a copy of the “Class of 2009 Folder Reading Guide, Academic Ratings,” which provided these details:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Williams, and all other elite schools, use this system because academic rating does a wonderful job of predicting academic performance at Williams and elsewhere.

Perhaps the main reason that this post is necessary is that Williams, when politically convenient, likes to deny the fundamental realities about how it decides who to admit and who to reject. Consider President Adam Falk and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 writing in the Record:

[T]he very notion that the “quality” of students can be defined on a single linear scale is preposterous

Academic rating is, precisely, a “single linear scale” and it is, by far, the major driver of admissions decisions. This is true both for the process as a whole and within sub-groups. For example, African-American applicants with academic rating 1 to 3 are virtually certain to be admitted while those with academic rating 8 or 9 are almost always rejected. The College may have different standards across sub-categories but, within each subcategory (except athletes and development prospects), the academic rating explains 90% of the variation.

Second, students with an academic rating worse than 2 (i.e., 3 or higher) are summarily rejected unless they have a specific “hook” or attribute.

The Recipe is explicit:

In general, all applicants with a combined academic rating of 3 or higher are rejected at this point, unless the first and second readers have identified one or more “attributes” that warrant additional consideration.


The readers also assign any of more than 30 “attributes” that admission uses to identify exceptional traits. Some of these are easily quantified, such as being the child or grand-child of an alumnus, a member of a minority group, an “impact” athlete or a local resident. Other more subjective “tags” draw attention (usually but not always favorably) to something special about a candidate, like a
powerful passion or aptitude for scientific research or an interest in getting
a non-science Ph.D.

From Nurnberg ’09 el al, attributes (in addition to race/ethnicity/gender) include:

alumni grandparent, alumni other, alumni parent, alumni sibling, studio art, development or future fundraising potential, dance, institutional connection,
intellectual vitality, local, music, politically active, religious, research science, economically disadvantaged, social service, theater, top athlete, tier 2 athlete, and tier 3 athlete

At this stage, the naive reader will assume that all these attributes have a similar effect. Being a great musician or a great athlete will help some AR 4s get into Williams, and that is OK. (And the College wants you to think that.) In fact, some attributes matter much more than others. Recall (from 2004!) Admissions Director Dick Nesbitt ’74:

We are able to admit roughly 120 top rated musicians each year from the top of the academic reader rating scale–what we refer to as academic 1′ and 2’s (broadly defined as 1500+ SAT’s and very top of the class).

In other words, for many/most attributes, the College does not need to dip below AR 1s and 2s. Yes, being a top musician may help you in the competition with other outstanding students, but, if you are AR 3 or below, it won’t. You will be rejected. And the same applies to other attributes. Top students are also, often, deeply involved in social service or theater. In high school, they often excel in research science or political activism. If Williams were to admit only AR 1s/2s, it would have plenty of students in all these categories.

Third, for applicants with AR 3 or below, the attributes that matter most are race, income and athletics.

Does this mean that no other attributes ever matter? No! It is certainly the case that the daughter of a prominent alum could get into Williams as an AR 4 or the son of a Williams professor as an AR 3. But the major categories, the ones that account for the vast majority of AR 3 and below admissions are race, income and athletics.

Don’t want to read all the posts from those links? Here is a brief summary:

1) There are 100 or so admissions decisions which are driven by a Williams coach. You are either on her list or you are not. These “tips” and “protects” are, by definition, only used for students with AR 3 and below. Best single post overview of the topic is here.

2) In the class of 2020, Williams has (pdf) 115 African-American/Hispanic students. Many of these are AR 1 or 2 applicants who would have been accepted at Williams regardless of which box they checked. But a majority, probably a vast majority, are AR 3 or below. Recall this discussion of SAT scores:


Asian-Americans in the 700+ range are at least 6 times more common than African-Americans/Hispanics. So, how can Williams have more African-Americans/Hispanics than Asian-Americans enrolled? (Hint: It isn’t because there aren’t 100+ Asian-Americans among the AR 1/2 applicants who are currently rejected by Williams.) The reason is that Williams admits scores of African-American/Hispanic applicants with AR 3 and below. Williams does this because it wants a class which “mirrors” or “reflects” the US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics. Note that the average African-American student at Amherst has an SAT score consistent with AR 5. It is highly unlikely that Williams does a better job than Amherst at attracting highly rated African-American students.

3) Unlike athletics (which the college is, sometimes, transparent about) and race (on which there is good data), family income and parental education are trickier. The College reports (and is proud of the fact) that about 20% of students are eligible for Pell Grants and that about 20% of students are first generation college students, meaning that they come from families in which neither parent has a 4 year BA. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups, and, to a lesser extent, between these two groups and African-American/Hispanic students.) The problem is that all standardized test results (and, therefore, academic rating) are skewed against such students. So, in order to get to 20%, Williams must admit scores of such students with AR 3 or below.

About 1/2 of a Williams class is AR 1 or 2. (The median math+verbal SAT score at Williams is 1450, which is the bottom of AR 2.) There are 100 recruited athletes (all of whom, by definition, are AR 3 or below), 100+ African-American/Hispanic students, 100+ first generation and 100+ Pell Grant recipients. That adds up to 400+ in a class of 550! Many students fall into more than one category. Many (outside the athletes) are AR 1 or 2. But, given that we only have 275 spots left beneath AR 1/2, a large majority of the bottom half of the class are members of at least one of these 4 categories. The bottom 100 students in each class (approximately AR 5 and below) is almost completely dominated by these students. And, in the categories outside of athletes, academic rating drives the decisions. Williams is much more likely to accept an African-American and/or a first generation student and/or a future Pell Grant recipient if her academic rating is 1 to 3. Every single AR 9 applicant is rejected, regardless of her other outstanding attributes.

And that is how admissions works at Williams, and almost all other elite colleges.

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An anonymous source sent me this file (csv) of data related to Williams admissions.

> library(readr)
> x < - read_csv(file = "")
> x
# A tibble: 2,110 x 10
   class enrolled state       country      ethnicity   sex   act reading  math writing
 1  2017        0    AZ United States Asian American     M    NA     770   790     770
 2  2019        0    AZ United States Asian American     F    35     730   770     760
 3  2019        0    AZ United States Asian American     M    NA     800   720     800
 4  2019        0    BC        Canada Asian American     F    NA     800   750     750
 5  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     F    NA     790   800     800
 6  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     M    NA     760   780     790
 7  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     M    NA     790   800     710
 8  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     F    NA     650   590     670
 9  2014        1    CA United States Asian American     F    NA     790   780     720
10  2014        1    CA United States Asian American     F    35     750   800     700
# ... with 2,100 more rows


1) Does this look real to you? It does to me, although it is obviously just a sample. Opinions welcome.

2) Should I spend a week exploring this data?

3) The sample is a strange subset of what the “complete” data must look like. For example:

> table(x$class, x$enrolled)
         0   1
  2011  86  99
  2013  96 119
  2014 123 105
  2015 124 116
  2016  77 125
  2017 232 159
  2019 172 143
  2020 164 170

a) Note that there is no data for the class of 2018. Perhaps removing this data is one way that Williams keeps track of who it gave this data to and, therefore, who it can go after for leaking it to me.

b) The numbers of students range for 185 for the class of 2011 to 391 for the class of 2017. Since around 1,250 applicants are admitted to Williams each year, we definitely don’t have the complete data.

c) It is interesting to see data for applicants that we admitted — I assume that everyone in this data was admitted — but who chose not to enroll.

d) Would you believe a 230 point difference between Asian-American and African-American SAT scores among Williams students?

> x %>% filter(enrolled == 1) %>% group_by(ethnicity) %>% 
     summarise(count = n(), act = round(mean(act, na.rm = TRUE)), 
               sat = round(mean(reading + math, na.rm = TRUE))) %>% 
# A tibble: 7 x 4
        ethnicity count   act   sat
1  Asian American   186    34  1506
2    Unidentified    18    34  1488
3           White   569    33  1480
4          Non-US    24    31  1374
5 Hispanic/Latino    99    30  1341
6 Native American     7    26  1302
7           Black   133    29  1274

That is what the data suggest . . .

Can’t resist adding an image:


Code for generating this below the break.

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The work, simply known as “Rayok” or “The Peep-show,” mocks and satirizes the anti-formalism campaign in the Soviet arts during the late-1940’s that sought to stifle any art that did not conform to the official Soviet cultural policy and resulted in a sustained campaign of persecution and criticism and toward many of the Soviet Union’s foremost composers including Shostakovich himself.  It was never publicly performed during Shostakovich’s lifetime.

Marko Remec ’80 is an investment banker-turned-artist. His experience may provide guidance and a lesson for new graduates and those about to graduate:

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Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is the last day.

Let’s finish our discussion by going through the four specific recommendations given in the op-ed and providing some links to prior discussions.

First, we need to loosen the admissions goal for international students, which is currently at 8 percent. Besides the problematic morality of a policy that is indistinguishable from the Jewish quotas implemented by elite colleges a century ago, treating an (English-fluent) applicant born in Shanghai differently from one born in St. Louis makes little sense. The best college in the world will have the best students, regardless of the color of their passports.

International admissions (and the quota thereon) has been an EphBlog topic for more than a decade. Classic posts here and here. Although an informed reader provides some interesting comments here, there is no reason that Williams could not go from 8% international to Harvard’s 11%. International admissions should also focus less on country diversity and more on academic qualifications. You can be sure, for example, that a lot of the accepted students from places like Afghanistan and Botswana were less qualified than dozens of rejected applicants from places China and South Korea.

Second, we need to significantly decrease the admissions preferences given to athletes. The College has been decreasing these preferences for 15 years. Despite much grumbling from coaches and predictions of mediocrity from fans, the Director’s Cup trophies continue to roll in. It turns out that Williams coaches are excellent recruiters even when admissions standards are raised. Let’s raise them some more.

Key documents in the history of athletic preferences in admissions include the MacDonald Report and the 2009 Update. Read this useful summary of the debate. Despite decreasing admissions preferences for athletes significantly over the last 20 years, William still wins the Directors Cup almost every year!

Third, we should decrease the preferences given to under-represented minorities (URM) and to students from low income families. Of course, there are scores of such students with top-notch academic credentials. They would still be admitted and, eagerly, enrolled. But, given a choice between a URM or poor student with a 620 SAT average and a non-URM (perhaps an Asian-American?) or non-poor student (perhaps the middle class child of public high school teachers?) with a 770 average, we should prefer the academically more talented applicant.

Who recalls my ten part series on the incoherence of the preferences that Williams, and other elite schools, provide to poor families? Good stuff! (Especially the last post.) At his recent talk in Boston, President Falk reported that about 20% of the class of 2021 were from a family in which neither parent had a four year BA and that 20% were from a family poor enough to qualify for a Pell Grant. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups.) Many of these Ephs are AR 1s (often coming to us via Questbridge), among the smartest students at Williams. We need more like them! But, at the other end of the spectrum are weak students, AR 4s and 5s. We need more AR 1s and, if those students happen to be middle class or have parents who graduated from college, so be it.

Fourth, we need to recruit more seriously. The number of Tyng Scholarships should be increased and their use should be focused on the most desirable applicants, almost all of whom will be African-American. Rather than offering them for incoming first-years, we should use the Summer Science Program and Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program to target high quality poor and URM high school juniors, potential applicants that we currently lose to HYPS. Senior faculty at the College should devote as much effort to attracting excellent students as our coaches do to recruiting excellent student-athletes.

The second biggest annoyance of the entire debate is the refusal of Falk, and the rest of the Williams administration, to take recruitment seriously. Not a single critic mentioned this paragraph. Williams desperately needs more AR 1/2/3 African-American students. We get some, but we lose many more to Harvard et al. Why don’t we do more? First, as I proposed 8 years ago, the College should award almost all Tyng Scholarships to African-Americans, thereby luring 4 to 8 high quality students away from our elite peers. Second, Williams should use SSP/SHSS as a recruitment tool, not a preparation tool. Imagine that we invited 30 (or 50 or 100!) of the smartest poor and/or URM students in the country to Williams during the summer after their junior year in high school, thereby showing them what a magical place Williams can be, giving each of them the experience of a Williams tutorial. Then, in August, we tell the best of them, with a wink-and-a-nod, that they will be accepted to Williams if they apply early decision.

That is just part of what we would do if we were seriously interested in recruiting the best African-American/Hispanic and/or poor students in the country to come to Williams. We don’t do those things because . . .

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Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is day 4.

The portion of the op-ed least likely to be confronted by its critics:

[W]e are not the best college in the world today.

The average SAT section score for the Class of 2020 is about 720. At Macalester and Wesleyan, it is 690. At Yale and Princeton, it is about 750. Macalester and Wesleyan are fine schools. Yet every Eph considers Williams, correctly, to be a cut above – not because our dining hall food is tastier, our professors are more learned or our facilities are more sumptuous, but because our students are smarter.

Yet that same reasoning applies to Yale/Princeton relative to us. A 30-point difference in the score on a single SAT might not seem like much. Can anyone really say that an applicant that scored 750 is meaningfully “smarter” than one who scored 720? But, to the extent that we think that the quality of the College’s student body is better than that of Macalester/Wesleyan, we need to admit that it is worse than that of Yale/Princeton. As long as that is true, we will never be the best college in the world.

Note that this judgment does not depend on using only the (potentially flawed) metric of SAT scores. Williams is worse than Yale/Princeton and better than Macalester/Wesleyan on any reasonable measure of academic performance, whether that be the ACT, SAT II Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, high school grades, teacher recommendations and so on. Elite schools rank applicants using, more or less, the same criteria. SAT scores are a handy, and public, summary statistic which demonstrates the relative quality of our student body.

Critics quibble about what the “best” college is while, at the same time, recommending that virtually any student admitted to both Williams and Wesleyan should choose Williams, as more than 90% of such students actually do. Indeed, perhaps this implies a theorem:

EphBlog Maxim #5: College X is “better” than College Y if a large majority of high school seniors admitted to both X and Y choose X.

Obviously, this does not mean that X is better than Y for every student in the world. Lots of students won’t even apply to X because it lacks something (an engineering major, warm weather) which they value. Nor does it imply that X is better than Y for the (relatively few) students who choose Y over X. They probably had good reasons for doing so. Yet this definition captures, in a well-specified fashion, what it means for one college to be “better” than the other. It also provides a plausible metric for Williams to aim for:

EphBlog Maxim #6: The best college in the world is the college that is chosen most often by students admitted to both it and to one of its competitors.

Readers: How do you tell if one college is better than another college? If a high school senior was admitted to Williams (or Amherst/Pomona) and to Weslesyan (or Macallister/Bates), wouldn’t you recommend that she choose Williams (or Amherst/Pomona)? If not, then why do 90% or more of such dual admittees choose the Williams/Amherst/Pomona option?

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Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is day 3.

The Record butchered both the title of the op-ed and its opening paragraph. It should have been:

The Best College in the World

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world. “Best” means two things: First, we want the most academically talented students. Second, we want those students to thrive at Williams more than they would have at an alternative institution. Ignore the second criteria and focus on student quality. We are not the best college in the world today.

1) Williams does have an official “mission and purposes” statement. Alas, it is too long, too vague and too littered with the parochial political concerns of our era. I think we should replace it with the simple “best college in the world” formulation, but that is a debate for another day.

2) Whatever else it means, being the “best” college means having the “best” students. Of course, plenty will differ, will argue that, for example, it is more important, or as important, for Williams student body to be “diverse” — for various conflicting measures of diversity — than for it to be academically excellent. But the nice thing about academic excellence is that we all (mostly!) agree on what it means. Other metrics of “best” will always be too contested to provide a shared meaning.

3) I would leave the definition of the “best” students to the Williams faculty and the professionals in the admissions department. For example, the College could, each year, provide each faculty member with a list of all the students in the graduating class that she has taught and then ask her which of these students were her “best” students. Leave it to her to decide if “best” means highest grades or most engaged in class discussion or most original writing or whatever criteria she prefers.

When you do this, you will find that the vast, vast majority of students judged as “best” by the Williams faculty are academic rating 1 or 2, as determined by the admissions department. Very, very few of the students with academic rating below 4 are ever considered to be the “best” by Williams faculty. So, we should have more AR 1s and fewer AR 5s..

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