Scott Berman sent in these thoughts on tips. My comments are interspersed.

Please take no personal offense, but you are a bit late to this debate.

No offense taken. This is not the first time that I have come late to the party.

It has been raging at Williams for some time now, and President Shapiro (along with numerous others) has publicly weighed in already. I don’t think it is worth rehashing the issues here, as they have been comprehensively covered elsewhere and I doubt that I can do either side justice.

If anyone (Scott or others) know of good on-line discussions of the issue, I would love to post the links. I saw an article on related topics in the Alumni Review a while back, but it is not on-line.

But in case the term is not self-explanatory to some, I believe that “tips” refer to the fact that some students are given “preference” by the admissions committee based on recommendations by the athletic coaches. I believe that some of these “tips” are arguably just as qualified as any other admitted student (i.e., they may have been accepted anyway). Others may be slightly below the “average,” but I think that the admissions committee argues (justifiably in my opinion) that they are treated similarly to other applicants whose grades or SATs may be “below average” but who can bring a unique talent that boosts the overall quality of the Williams Community (i.e., no different than an accomplished musician or artist). I think that as I have heard it described, coaches do not even bother trying to get tips for applicants who are clearly below Williams standards.

Hmmm. Of course, as always, the devil is in the details. To the extent that the average SAT scores and high school grades for the tips are “similar” to those of the non-tips, I see no problems. In fact, I can’t imagine that anyone would have a problem. But, I suspect, that the reason for tips in the first place is that these are students that don’t quite measure up, as a group, to their non-tip peers. The key unknown (to me) is the extent of the disparity.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with this policy probably depends upon the relative importance one places on sports, and personal beliefs about the role athletics plays in shaping the overall college experience. Interestingly, Harry Sheehy (the current Athletic Director and former basketball coach) gave an outstanding talk on this and related topics at the Boston Alumni Association’s annual meeting just a couple of weeks ago. It’s a shame that only a few of our local classmates could be there because not only was he very entertaining, but also I thought he made some excellent arguments that I had not considered previously – for both sides of the debate. Admittedly I went into the meeting with a slight bias in favor of a continued emphasis on athletics, but I left with an even deeper understanding of the role athletics can play at the college, as well as a greater appreciation for some of the pitfalls that must be carefully avoided.

I like to think that it is possible to believe both a) athletics are important to Williams and should be treated as so and b) very little if any benefit in the admissions process should be given to tips. After all, if there were no tips, Williams would still field athletic teams. Someone would still play varsity soccer. Those teams would not be as successful, but since when is something like winning the Sears Cup important. The key issue is that, in a world without tips, some Williams students who currently do not make the team (or who make the team but ride the bench) would make the team. There are only 12 spots on the varsity basketball team. For every tip who takes a spot, a non-tip student must give up a spot. Places in the starting lineup are limitted. Those who say that tips are a good thing because it is more fun to play on a winning team than a losing team miss the (obvious) point that this is only true if one gets to play on both teams. I would assume that the vast majority of Williams students would rather play on a team that was 10-10 than watch that same team win the national championship.

Anyway, I’d better leave it at that for now, lest I be sucked into what I know is a very polarizing debate.

By the way, does this get me off the hook for submitting an Eph Blurb?

Yes! You, unlike some memebers of the reunion committee who shall remain unnamed, get full Eph Blurb credit.

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