Jocelyn Shadforth ’88 had these comments on the Mellon research discussed a few days ago:

Aside from the trustworthiness of Mellon research, I thought the NYT article was notable in that it didn’t focus on Williams, but simply lumped it in with other elite schools. I sometimes think that the campus community spends so much time worrying about these issues, that papers like the Times, the Chronicle, etc. end up doing “in-depth” pieces that make it sound as if Williams is atop the top 10 party school list. Don’t get me wrong; I was a bit stunned this morning to see that athletes’ chances of admissions improve fourfold. (Believe me, if I ever have kids, I won’t rely on legacy status. They’re going out for everything involving a ball, racquet, and perspiration.) I just wonder sometimes if there isn’t an awful lot of hand-wringing going on without a whole lot of perspective, and that’s coming from the very antithesis of a college-athlete.


1) To the extent that one wants to use athletics to improve the odds in the Williams admissions process, it is important to think about which sports. Of course, if my daughters are Olympic caliber athletes, the sport that they play would be largely irrelevant. But, since they are not, the sport does matter. What to do? Best would probably be to specialize and squash and ice hockey. Both sports are expensive and regional. There would be many fewer competitors for those all important spots on the “tips” list than there would be in soccer and swimming. Both squash and (especially) ice hockey have largish teams. Also, playing three sports pretty well doesn’t help you in Williams admissions. Playing one sport really well does.

2) While we at the Williams Blog hate to spend our time hand-wringing, the issue of athletics at Williams is a concern. Note Bowen and Levin’s comments on the zero sum nature of competition for athletic teams:

Recruiting large numbers of athletes not only claims places in the entering class, it also results in greatly diminished opportunities for other athletically interested (and talented) students to play on intercollegiate teams.

I have never seen this point — if a “tip” gets to play quarterback for the football or goalie for the field hockey then someone else, perhaps someone who got into Williams on his/her academic credentials, does not — acknowledged by anyone in authority at Williams. In fact, what you generally see is something along the lines of “winning teams are more fun to play on than losing teams.” This is true, perhaps, but I would rather play on an 8-8 team than ride the bench on a 10-1 much less watch from the sidelines for a national champion.

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