Alan Krueger, an economist at Princeton, has an article in the New York Times today on affirmative action. Although there was nothing Williams-specific in the article, I couldn’t help but be struck by this passage:

No one raises concerns that preference in admissions given to athletes, cheerleaders and children of wealthy alumni causes self-doubt or stigma. The fact that this concern only rises to prominence when it comes to considering race as one of many factors in admissions illustrates how difficult it will be to overcome the lingering discrimination in American society.

Comments:

1) The first sentence is simply not true. Plenty of people (or is it just me?) have concerns about the preferences given to atheletes at elite colleges, both for what it does to the college and for what it does to the athletes. I would argue that the average athlete with academic credentials that at the bottom 5% of the Williams distribution would be better off at a (still excellent!) school like Bates or Denison than at Williams. I think that the same applies with regard to a Harvard versus Williams comparison. The football players who go to Harvard but who, academically, belong at Williams have made the wrong decision.

2) Note the subtle smear in the second sentence. If you disagree with Krueger by arguing that preferential admissions harms, on average, its intended beneficiaries (and if you worry about this the larger the preference given) than this fact alone is enough to demonstrate that you are a racist. The average SAT score of a legacy student at Williams may be 40 points lower than her peers (actually, I am not even sure that it is lower since high SAT students are often drawn to Williams over other options because of the alumni connection) but, to my mind, this is much less of a concern than the much larger shortfall in SAT scores for impact athletes (“tips”) in important sports. Worrying more about the latter than the former does not make me anti-athlete.

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