One of the things of which the Williams administration is proud is our perennial high ranking in the US News & World Report list of Top Liberal Arts Colleges. And they should be. Despite problems with the methodology, it reflects our alma mater’s quality as an institution of higher education.

But what about lists that take into account diversity (read: welcoming to minorities)? Of course, I realize that these types of lists are unscientific at best, but if the US News & World Report list counts, shouldn’t these count too?

Black Enterprise has a list of Top Colleges & Universities for African Americans. Here, Williams has done much better than the following lists. Williams is ranked 14th (up from 24th in 2001 and 35th in 1999). Amherst is 30th (down from 20th in 2001) and Swarthmore is 33rd (down from 18th in 2001), with a few other liberal arts colleges in between. Their DayStar rating system seems to rely heavily on surveys.

Hispanic Magazine has a list of Top 25 Colleges and Universities
for Hispanics
. Williams is not in the top 25, while Amherst is 12th and Swarthmore is 5th. Their ratings seem to be based off of US News & World Reports, with modifications based on how many Hispanic students attend and graduate with a degree.

A. Magazine (now defunct) created a list of Top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges for Asian Americans back in 2000. Again, Williams is not in the top 25, while Amherst was 21st and Swarthmore was 8th. Their ranking was based off student surveys/comments and stats on incidents of ethnic slurs and offensive language or behaviors, physical assualts, and other social environmental qualities. Where they got these stats and how accurate are they, who knows?

It’s not a great showing, even allowing for the caveats. But in the end, are these things even useful? I’m sure at Williams, like every other place in this country, there is discrimination of some sort going on. I’m more concerned about whether there’s any systemic influence on people behavior, due to lax policy, culture, informal/unofficial administrative action, etc. It seems to me that Williams often talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk. Right now there is discussion about a particular incident with vague promises to “do better”, but will anything be different in 5 years?

Just for fun, I looked into the corporations that consistently rank well on Fortune’s 50 Best Companies for Minorities. Most of them have these things in common:

  • Accountability: hiring, promotion, retention.
  • Minority representation throughout the organization (boards, committees, top administration).
  • Diversity programs (sensitivity training, etc).
  • Mentoring: pairing senior staff with newer minority hires to career counseling, networking opportunities and increased visibility for employees.

Can Williams apply the same goals to its faculty? Should it?

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