Although the WSO blogs are a technically impressive achievement, their content has not been everything that one could have hoped for. There are, on occasion, interesting posts. Topher Cyll has some comments on “Intolerance and Pseudo-intellectualism at Williams” in a post today, for example.

Everyone once in a while, though, a fascinating, well-informed discussion and debate erupts, almost out of nowhere, on the blogs. The recent one, started by Evan Miller, on “Justice, Diversity and Financial Aid” is a great example of the genre. Not only does Miller begin the debate with a thoughtful and link-filled essay, but his commentators respond in kind. Miller summarizes his argument as:

I have, then, five recommendations for elite colleges such as Williams that are interested in advancing diversity, justice, and their financial situations:

1) Invest in an internet initiative akin to OpenCourseWare to spread learning as widely as possible;

2) Withdraw from athletic agreements that prohibit merit scholarships;

3) Define merit as any characteristic that adds value to the college campus, and award scholarships (or quote tuitions) accordingly;

4) If a scholarship is based on need, ensure that either:

a) the student’s neediness will improve the learning experience of his peers, i.e., the scholarship is actually merit-based; or

b) the student comes from a low-income family, and his long-term career prospects will be significantly better by attending an elite college instead of a non-elite college.

5) Recognize that there is nothing unfair about denying aid to students whose long-term career prospects will not be affected if they attend a non-elite instead of an elite college.

If the college is truly motivated by interests in diversity and justice, I think it would do well to consider this advice; but if it is more strongly motivated by a love of intercollegiate athletics and a suspicion of wealth, then I think it would do better first to revalue its values.

I am not sure if this brief summary does justice to Miller’s argument. In any event, the whole debate makes for interesting reading.

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