The forum on affirmative action that we blogged about went ahead last week. Here is the story from the Record.

David Brodigan, Director of Institutional Research at Williams, was kind enough to respond (via e-mail) to the questions that I would have liked to pose at the event. My questions and his answers are as follows:

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?

The answer is that she would be classified on the basis of (1) the race information on her application for admission, if she responded to that item, and (2) her response to a query from the Office of the Registrar that is sent to all new students. The categories used are dictated by the federal government, and in your daughter’s case the race options would be White or Asian.

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?

The application does indeed show race as an optional entry, but as I indicated in the previous response the Registrar’s Office makes an effort to identify students in accordance with the government’s reporting requirements. Basically, the government asks that every effort be made to classify students by race. I should add that the government receives counts in aggregate only, no individual data.

My role as institutional researcher, within the Provost’s Office, is to complete the government’s enrollment report (IPEDS is the current acronym for this series of education reports), and I can tell you that their categories and methods are under review at the present time; still, no one in my line of work knows yet what future reports will require.

3) What percentage of First Years are Jewish? What percentage are Catholic?

In our annual survey of first-year students, 8% reported Jewish and 22% said Catholic. (97% of first-years responded to this item.)

Thanks to David Brodigan for providing such thorough and complete answers to my questions. Thanks also to the senior administration official(s) who passed on my request to him.

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