Although I know that my old roommate. George Tolley, agree much more than we disagree, I can’t resist posting some thoughts on his comments below. George writes:

Nevertheless, I also submit to you that increasing the diversity of the student body contributes to an increase in relative yield — I can’t prove that, but I would cite the arguments in the much-publicized (and yet-to-be-decided) University of Michigan admissions cases, including the argument of the U.S. military in favor of considering race in admissions — you don’t take issue with the position of the military, do you Dave?

I agree that diversity helps Williams, both by increasing the relative yield and by improving the quality of the education that is provided. I would not want my daughters to go to a College at which everyone, but them, was the same color as George’s sons. However, because ability (as measured by test scores, high school grades, application essays and the like) is not only found among the pale, Williams would be a thoroughly diverse place even in the absence of affirmative action. Imagine a world in which all applicants are judged on merit. Do you think everyone at Williams would be WASP? I don’t. In fact, I think that the non-WASP proportion at Williams might be more or less the same. There would be changes, no doubt. But how different would Williams really be?

Affirmative action in the military, to the extent that it has relevance to Williams, is mostly misportrayed in the media. First, 95% of the members in the military are unaffected by it. Anyone who succeeds in becoming, say, a Gunnery Seargent in the Marine Corps, is there independent of the color of his skin. You rise (or fail to rise) to that station on your merits. Second, those few who are affected (mainly in admissions to the service academies and, on the margin, in certain schools like flight training) are treated very differently that Williams treats its own affirmative action admits. Although this is a complex topic, perhaps the most relevant analog to Williams are the service academies. Although they do practice affirmative action (i.e., admit applicants who would have been denied if they had been white), they prepare most of those applicants by giving them an extra year of classes and instruction prior to enrollment. Anyone who thinks that this approach has a connection to Williams should explain why Williams doesn’t (or shouldn’t) do the same.

In any event, George and I agree on the most important things. First, relative yield (and its change over time) would be an interesting statistic to look at. (Williams’s relative yield is almost certainly much higher now than it was in the 1950’s.) Second, the most important measure of success for the college is how better off (in mind, body and spirit) Williams graduates are relative to their status had they gone somewhere else — although this is very hard to guess at, much less measure. Third, that our children (as pure-blood Ephs) should receive significant preferences from the admissions office when the apply.

Actually, I don’t know if George agrees with this last one.

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