On today’s calendar, there is a listing for an 8:00 PM discussion on affirmative action. The blurb says:

The panelists are: President Morton Schapiro, Provost Cappy Hill, Dick Nesbbitt, director of admissions, and Nancy McIntire, Assistant to the President for Affirmative Action. Come to discuss and ask administrators questions about the affirmative action policy in admissions and in faculty hiring at Williams, and the potential for these policies to change in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gratz v. Bollinger this summer.

Today’s Record also has an article on the forum. The Record notes that:

“The main goal of this forum is to clarify any questions about the policy of this school on affirmative action and related issues, such as [campus] diversity,” said Chin Ho ’04, CC co-president. Mike Henry ’04, co-president of CC, also added that the community forum is a place where students can ask administrators questions about issues related to affirmative action. Henry hopes it fosters “healthy dialogue.”

What questions would I (having put on my trouble-maker’s hat) ask if I were there? Hmmmmm.

The Provost’s office provides a handy breakdown of First Year students by race. It claims that there are, for example, 47 “Hispanic” and 359 “White, non-Hispanic” First Years. There are 0 students in the “Race/ethnicity unknown” category.

1) If my daughter (with one parent of Irish/German ancestry and one of Chinese ancestry) were a First Year, how would she be classified?

2) On the Williams application, providing one’s race is optional. On the diversity section of the admissions web site, there is a note stating that students may identify themselves as being of “mixed racial heritage.” Given this, how is it possible that the Provost knows the race/ethnicity of every single first year?

3) What percentage of First Years are Jewish? What percentage are Catholic? Given the reasoning in the Supreme Court’s opinion (diversity of student background improves everyone’s education), it would seem to be just as important to know these sorts of statistics as it is to know that 8.8% of the class is “Asian or Pacific Islander.”

And that would probably be about enough. To be truthful, I have a pretty good idea what the answers to the first two questions would be. (My daughter would get to classify herself however she wanted to and the Provost puts everyone who does not classify themselves into one of her boxes into the “White, non-Hispanic” category.) But, I could be wrong.

Moreover, one way to challenge Williams current policy on affirmative action is to point out its absurdities. My daughters have friends (blond hair) that are 1/4 Asian and are as (un)connected to Asian culture as I am to German culture. Should Williams really count applicants like this as being potential “students of color”? Should Williams really fail to keep track of the students (conservative, traditional Jews and Catholics) who would truly add to the cultural diversity of student life?

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