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In the Genes

The PC explanation for why Jews make up 3% of the US population but 10% or more of the students at places like Williams is that Jewish culture values educational achievement. That is undoubtedly true, but the New York Times has an article today suggesting a different hypothesis.

A team of scientists at the University of Utah has proposed that the unusual pattern of genetic diseases seen among Jews of central or northern European origin, or Ashkenazim, is the result of natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability.

The selective force was the restriction of Ashkenazim in medieval Europe to occupations that required more than usual mental agility, the researchers say in a paper that has been accepted by the Journal of Biosocial Science, published by Cambridge University Press in England.

You can read the study itself here and more commentary here.

Topics like this are probably too controversial for graduation week-end, but I can’t resist noting, in the context of the College’s Diversity Initiatives, that one of the reasons that some groups are “underrepresented” at Williams is that, pari passu, other groups at Williams are overrepresented. Want to increase diversity — meaning to make the percentages from various groups equal to the percentages in the applicant pool — at Williams? Don’t let in so many Jews.

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#1 Comment By One Funny WASP On June 3, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

David,

we used to do that, back in the good old days. It worked really well.

Scene: California Retirement Castle
Jack: “Do you accept people of the Jewish persuasion?”
Functionary: “No, I’m afraid we do not.”
Jack: (beaming) “That’s okay, neither does Dad!”

In the ’50s, anyway, Jewish folks were largely prohibited from the Ivy League. This prompted the (nearly ridiculous) intellectual efflorescence of the City College of New York, and other institutions that weren’t afraid to admit “tribesmen.”

It could be argued today that Asian-American applicants are facing the same discrimination. It is a near certainty (looking at the UCal data) that Asian admissions are capped. A school admitting more on merit would look a lot like a school that only had Jewish and Asian students at it.

Food for thought.

#2 Comment By frank uible On June 3, 2005 @ 4:10 pm

What is the definition of a “jew”? Who determines that definition?

#3 Comment By Welll…. On June 3, 2005 @ 4:54 pm

I think you ask their mother.

#4 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On June 3, 2005 @ 4:56 pm

And with that comment (“don’t let in so many Jews”) Kane places yet another nail in his public-office coffin …

#5 Comment By Eph On June 3, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

Even though Kane was presumably being sarcastic, his last comment was in very poor taste.

#6 Comment By David On June 3, 2005 @ 8:42 pm

I was being sarcastic, or at least ironic, and that is what I will tell the Senate committee during the confirmation hearings, with Jeff Zeeman by my side, I hope.

But why, precisely, is this in poor taste? One of the central logics of the diversity lobby is that if only X% of some group are Williams students or faculty or whatever while Y% are in the population (and Y > X), then there is a problem. Something is wrong. We need to increase X.

This may be good policy or it may be bad, but there is no denying the implications. If you think than 15% (or whatever) of the Williams student body should be African American, but only 10% are, then there is some other group that is over-represented. If you want achieve 15% for African Americans, you must deny admittance to some other students that you would have otherwise enrolled.

Who are these students? Given current enrollment at Williams, some, at least, will be Jews (and some will be Asian American and some will be INSERT YOUR FAVORITE GROUP HERE and so on).

I don’t see how pointing out the ineluctable logic of a policy can be in “poor taste,” unless you have a problem with the policy . . .

#7 Comment By David On June 3, 2005 @ 8:52 pm

As to Frank’s question, this is an area of some controversy. See here for an introduction. Basic idea, as reflected above, is:

The traditional definition of a Jew is “someone born to a Jewish mother or who has converted to Judaism.” The requirement for a valid conversion is that the candidate for conversion understand the obligations of being a Jew, show commitment to fulfilling these obligations, undergo brit milah (ritual circumcision) if male, perform immersion in a mikvah, and satisfy the scrutiny of a beit din, or rabbinical court. The beit din act not only as judges but as witnesses in the course of conversion, and it follows that its members must be kosher, i.e. suitable and qualified for these purposes.

Because there is a dispute over this topic, there is no one true answer to the question of how many Jewish students there are at Williams. Note this example:

[T]he traditional view is that any child born to a Jewish mother is Jewish, whether or not he/she is raised Jewish, or even whether the mother considers herself Jewish. As a result, the grandchildren of Madeline Albright (who was raised Catholic and unaware of her Jewish heritage) will all be Jews according to halakha (traditional Jewish law), since their mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother was a Jew (Dr. Albright has only daughters).

One of whom went to Williams.

But, interestingly enough, the same issues arise in other nose-counting efforts, the College’s claims to precision notwithstanding.

#8 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On June 3, 2005 @ 8:52 pm

First, I’m sure it was clear to all of us at Ephblog that DK was being ironic / sarcastic, but that being said, I would never write something like that on public forum for fear that someone (say, someone who rhymes with Barl Cove) might opportunistically try to misconstrue it someday, as would be all too easy to do.

In terms of why I wouldn’t view the issue that way, there is a difference between saying, we want more accurate represenation of, say, blacks at Williams, hence all other groups will necessarily suffer some slight losses, versus specifically targetting, say, Jews or Asians for winnowing. One philosophy has, as a bi-product, a marginal across-the-board impact on a variety of groups, the other is outright discrimination.

Which is not to say that I am a proponent of traditional race-based affirmative action. I do believe, however, that Williams would improve if we traded some wealthy third-generation prep school legacies for disadvanteged kids from urban backgrounds. This would certainly alter the racial landscape at Williams without implicating the sort of concerns DK is alluding to.

#9 Comment By frank uible On June 3, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

Jeff: Does your last paragraph work for minority legacies and WASP disadvantaged?

#10 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On June 3, 2005 @ 9:26 pm

Yes, I think it should. But the reality is, kids admitted through programs like questbridge, I’m guessing, are largely minority, and the kids who benefit the most from connections, tutors, private schools, money, etc., tend to be white. But I think a poor, first generation college student from a terrible school in appalachia should be accorded the same sort of consideration as a poor, first generation black or latino kids from an inner city.

#11 Comment By David On June 3, 2005 @ 10:18 pm

Jeff writes:

But I think a poor, first generation college student from a terrible school in appalachia should be accorded the same sort of consideration as a poor, first generation black or latino kids from an inner city.

That’s a nice sentiment, as far as it goes, but it is completely divorced from the facts on the ground as far as actual applications go. If you really implemented a policy that was largely race neutral — treated poor whites the same as poor non-whites and rich whites the same as rich non-whites — the color of next year’s class would be very different. As HWC noted in a different thread, the only way that Williams gets as many URMs as it does is by treating non-poor URMs much better than poor non-URMS in terms of admission preferences.

As always, one can like or not like this policy, but it is important to understand exactly what the policy is.

#12 Comment By AB On June 3, 2005 @ 10:29 pm

Contrary to contemporary American belief, Judaism isn’t a race; it’s a religion. So, if you’re talking in racial terms, Jews shouldn’t even be counted in the same category with racial minorities. Sure, there is a certain identification with Jewish people hood (they were, after all, a semi-nomadic and oppressed people for 2000 years or so) but at the end of the day, it’s a religion. Interestingly enough, if you surveyed the incoming Jewish students according to their observence/scripturally-based practice of the faith, I suspect far less than ten percent would be able to consider themselves “Jewish.” I’d imagine this trend would hold true for students of other faiths as well. Essentially, the cold hard truth is that Jews, Asians and other religious/racial minority groups have fared better than some of their counterparts, and once a group has become integrated with the system, it is very hard to intellectually justify the admitting of a weaker student.

Another point…imagine if Williams made a conscious effort to attract religiously inclined Mormans. As the Morman Church has perhaps more practicing, active members than any other large religion in the United States, the 3 percent of Mormans at Williams per se, would perhaps make up a more vocal presence than the supposed ten percent of Jews at Williams. I realize that was incoherent, but what I’m trying to say is that the relatively secular Jewish kid at Williams shouldn’t necessarily be considered racially different from the Episcopalian from the same hometown. This isn’t about religion.

#13 Comment By Eph On June 4, 2005 @ 2:43 am

I agree with AB’s statement. There is a difference between defining someone by race and defining someone by religion. Religion can be more dynamic and inclusive than race. Someone Jewish can be caucasian, African American, or any other race. Though Jewish people tend to be caucasian, there are traidtional “minority” students at Williams that are also Jewish.

#14 Comment By rory On June 4, 2005 @ 7:08 am

As a Jew in Spain, I feel obliged to point out this is an article focused on the Ashkenazi, not sephardic jews.

Religion/race/ethnicity, whatever you want to categorize us Jews as, I was extremely shocked to see David so lightly make fun of my background (I’m ashkenazi even if I’m living in Spain right now). Those snide comments, however sarcastic and unmeant, were a cheap and petty blow I didn’t need when I woke up and checked ephblog.

As for an actual response, not only is this only a hypothesis, a controversial one, but when it gets to other scientists and historians’ reactions, most everyone seems to say interesting but far from proven.

I’m still inclined to believe that the social capital in Jewish culture is the most important aspect of our representation at the heights of intellectual enterprise when given the opportunity.

Finally, in regards to the affirmative action side of this, there’s no reason why there cannot be two tracks of it: race and class. A poor URM is doubly screwed by society, while a poor white kid and a middle/upper class URM is screwed as well, the poor URM is getting royally messed up. Yet, for some reason, I’ve never heard that being proposed. I guess because it’s an expansion of a social program.

Rory

#15 Comment By rory On June 4, 2005 @ 7:30 am

Actually, no,

I wasn’t nearly strong enough in my last response:

Kane, that was irresponsbile sh$t of a joke and you should be embarrassed. Considering for a moment the history (and recent history) of Jews and access to things like education, QUOTAS IN ADMISSIONS, and such, I’m ashamed and wounded that you would so lightly joke about it.

The theory itself may be interesting and worthy of study. actual study. not seemingly innocuous but highly charged jokes. that’s just crap.

#16 Comment By frank uible On June 4, 2005 @ 7:56 am

I believe the Final Solution had its own tortured (pun intended) definition of “Jew”.

#17 Comment By David On June 4, 2005 @ 10:26 am

Rory,

I did not mean to “so likely make fun of” your background. If you took that way, I apologize. Although I do my fair share of fun-making, this post was not in that category.

But, for my continuing education, precisely what aspect of the post did you find to be mocking? I meant to be trenchant, not funny.

Maybe affirmative action and similar policies are good; maybe they are bad. But there can be no doubt that admissions at Williams are a zero sum game. For every extra student you let in, you must reject someone else.

It would be nice to live in a fantasy land in which the applicants so rejected are all, uh, undeserving in some way. Many people seem to think that the “cost” of affirmative action is that some rich white kids don’t get places at Williams. This is true. But another cost, just as real, is that some Jewish, Asian and other non-URMs don’t get in.

Maybe this is a worthwhile trade-off. Maybe it isn’t. But the purpose of my commentary was to highlight the fact that the trade-off exists, however much many people would like to pretend that it doesn’t.

I think it is not unreasonable for you to find the phrasing offensive (although I hope only mildly so, and even with that I would quibble), but I see no grounds for reading it as mocking.

#18 Comment By Ananda Burra ’07 On June 4, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

A few clarifications re. the admissions process that I shouldnt really have to make given the length and publicity given to the debate over affirmative action.

Williams has a need blind policy of admission. that means that admissions has no contact with FinAid during the admissions process and thus has no direct information regarding the financial status of an applicant. What it does have is a plethora of information submitted by most students in their applications. This includes parental educational qualifications, high school(s) attended, address etc.

Students are assigned ‘tags’ at an early stage of the admissions process. These range from athleatic tags to research tags to leadership tags and importantly a ‘socio-ec tag’. Undersrepresented minorities are also given a ‘tag’.

Admissions decisions are taken on the basis of these tags. Most people will have several tags assigned to them and the decision making process for the admissions office revolves around finding the optimum balance amongst these. Affirmative action is not based around the principle of righting historic or demographic wrongs but around the basis of the fact that the college believes that race can be a factor in who you are and in the experiences you bring to the college – just like a prior athletic or artistic background.

How is any of this relevant? It is relevant because it puts paid to any notion that the Williams diversity initiative is centered around the idea of creating a demographically consistant campus. This is not an issue of choosing between minorities so that Williams can have the right numbers but an attempt to diversify the range of experiences on campus. The aim of the initiative (of which I was a part) was to foster an environment that was conducive towards a cross-cultural community of learning.

Finally. David, as usual you have completely and utterly missed the point of the diversity initiative. it is not “make the percentages from various groups equal to the percentages in the applicant pool”. Rather the inititive was looking at why certain types of students apply to Williams, why we have the race breakdown we have in admissions but most importantly, how do URM students, faculty and staff fare at Williams and how do they percieve the Williams experience. If there are systemic problems in the way Williams deals with URM’s, how can we fix those?

David, you revel in simplifying and trivialising the diversity initiative while clearly showcasing that you would have been an important recipient of some cultural exposure and sensitization. Have fun with that.

#19 Comment By David On June 4, 2005 @ 4:11 pm

Ananda writes:

Williams has a need blind policy of admission. that means that admissions has no contact with FinAid during the admissions process and thus has no direct information regarding the financial status of an applicant.

Is this really true and, related, how do you know that this is true? For example, I am pretty sure that Admissions is aware of applicants whose families have given millions of dollars to Williams. I realize that this is the other end of the spectrum from what you were talking about but, still, Admissions does know something about “the financial status of an applicant.”

Affirmative action is not based around the principle of righting historic or demographic wrongs but around the basis of the fact that the college believes that race can be a factor in who you are and in the experiences you bring to the college – just like a prior athletic or artistic background.

I realize that this is the College’s official policy — or at least I am confident that the College’s attorneys have told the College to say this — but how do you know it is true? Sam Crane, for example, clearly believes that one of the reasons why affirmative action is a good idea is precisely because of the righting of historical wrongs. Now Sam is not in charge of Admissions, but I believe that this opinion is widespread among people who matter at Williams.

Of course, it is hard to answer this question. Who knows what the officers in the admissions department think about when they read applications? But, from reading books on ths topic, I think that historic-wrong-righting plays a part, albeit unstated.

It is relevant because it puts paid to any notion that the Williams diversity initiative is centered around the idea of creating a demographically consistant campus.

Finally, David, as usual you have completely and utterly missed the point of the diversity initiative. it is not “make the percentages from various groups equal to the percentages in the applicant pool”.

You seem to not have read what I wrote. I never asserted anything about the point of the Diversity Initiatives at Williams. I see no reason to quibble with your characterization of them today. I made a point about “diversity” — small “d”, no Williams-specific reference — that holds true, I think. Many, many people claim that group X is not “diverse” while group Y is “diverse” because of the numbers of various racial/ethnic/religious subgroups in X and Y, generally in reference to some sort of underlying population.

David, you revel in simplifying and trivialising the diversity initiative while clearly showcasing that you would have been an important recipient of some cultural exposure and sensitization. Have fun with that.

Actually, despite writing thousands of words on EphBlog, I have had relatively little to say about the Diversity Initiatives, partly because I look forward to seeing the final draft, partly because we will be using the Report for next year’s CGCL over Winter Study, partly because anchor housing seems much more important. What little I have had to say has been mostly positive.

So, before you criticize my views, you might try to get a clue about them.

Moreover, I am curious how you know whether or not I was “an important recipient of some cultural exposure and sensitization.” How can you, Ananda, look into my soul and see what lurks there? In fact, how do you know that I am not at least as sensitive to things right and wonderful as you are? Or at least as sensitive as your most open-minded US-born peer? If you can point to specific writings that are racist, please do so.

But don’t tell me that only those who don’t agree with your political opinions on what College policy should be are somehow narrow-minded and needing re-education.

#20 Comment By frank uible On June 4, 2005 @ 6:33 pm

A Wittgensteinian might ask: “what is the definition of URM” and “who creates that definition”? Using a dictionary definition, sociopaths, the unintelligent and bigots, among others, are certainly underrepresented minorities at Williams.

#21 Comment By Danny On June 4, 2005 @ 8:05 pm

This discussion has been way out of line on a number of fronts, and I feel the need to speak up.

1. My brother has Crohn’s disease, which runs predominantly in Ashkenazim, and I will most likely begin to see stronger symptoms in the next few years. David, please remember that you started this discussion by talking about diseases that affect real people in very serious ways–there was no need to use a topic like that as a segue, other than the humor that you deny using.

2. I have never before seen a holocaust pun. One part of me doesn’t want to dignify it with a response, and another wants to make sure that Frank Uible understands how out of line he was.

This isn’t political correctness; it’s common decency.

#22 Comment By rory On June 4, 2005 @ 8:44 pm

David,

I’m tired of being something like the “pc police”, but here I go again…

First of all, affirmative action is not zero sum in the way you speak of it in the original post, in which one group would be targetted (Jews) so others could get in. This is the problem. To make hte point that someone’s spot would be taken if affirmative action were ramped up is separate from the “joke” that the answer is to not let jews in anymore. Besides, we all know affirmative action changes the “meritocracy” system that isn’t quite so meritocratic, and get over it. Change the athletic tips, change legacy tips, and just not accept some borderline admits. It sucks for those individuals, but there’s a difference between these statements:
1. We will help this group because they bring something important.
2. We will actively hurt this specific other group because they are not as valuable as others.

Statement 2 is what you (jokingly) said about my religion/ethnicity.

As for why this is offensive, it disappoints me that I have to echo Danny’s points, and add my own reason (as I’ve been pleased to not face these diseases in my close family). Because Jews are so generally integrated into society and many of our most famous members are self-referential in their humor (I do it a lot myself), there’s a tendency to believe that we’re pretty much just another white group. But that’s not true, see for instance hate groups, James Dobson, and on the left, a number of the people who support the Palestinian cause. Jews are still criticized, especially in regards to our success at integrating into higher education, entertainment, and banking/legal worlds in the US, as potentially being over-represented not only percentage wise, but as being too powerful for an ethnic group, as though there is a cabal of jews plotting to take over the US. Most of the time, as in this case, the comment did not mean to reference such extremism, but that is what has existed historically throughout the world, and continues to sadly exist throughout the world. I don’t take lightly a comment that so thoroughly echoes anti-semitism, even if when I read it I only thought “crap, there goes Kane again.”

Only two generations ago, schools like Williams (don’t know if we had one) had quotas on the number of Jews because we were taking spots away from “white” applicants. That is what your comment shadows, and that is what causes the pain.

David, I don’t really care what you meant…obviously I know it was a joke. The problem is that after people pointed out that they found it offensive, you felt the need to defend it immediately. This is understandable, but it’d be much better to simply ask “why” rather than “I didn’t mean it, I don’t think I did, defend your offense!”

#23 Comment By rory On June 4, 2005 @ 8:47 pm

to be very obvious, it was this sentence I found to be “Don’t let in so many Jews.” As for what I said about it, I specifically mentioned the history of Jews being barred access from higher education. I’m not quite sure what is not clear about that.

#24 Comment By frank uible On June 4, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

The Final Solution occurred over 60 years ago. Danny, I doubt very much that you were one of its subjects. I don’t believe I was out of line. Perhaps you are hypersensitive. Work on developing a less thin skin. It might help you get through life.

#25 Comment By rory On June 5, 2005 @ 5:21 am

Frank,

I didn’t think someone would do a worse job of listening and reacting than David in this thread, but you take the cake.

Jews were the target. Danny is Jewish. I am Jewish. Were my family have not emigrated when we did, we would have been targets. There are millions of families, millions of Jews who were targeted whose only difference was that they were in Europe and a couple generations older than Danny or I.

The Holocaust may be fading deeper and deeper into history, but damn if it still isn’t disgusting to make a pun out of it. And damn if it isn’t additionally disgusting for you to not realize that and instead accuse Danny of “hypersensitivity” and needing to develop a less thin skin.

What if Danny’s family lost someone in the Holocaust, a sadly strong possibility? What if they didn’t–that shouldn’t matter. The Holocaust was a truly terrible event, perhaps unrivaled in its horror. Puns are an inappropriate means of talking about the deaths of millions simply because of their religion.

#26 Comment By (d)avid On June 5, 2005 @ 9:01 am

1) If one is going to make a Holocaust joke (an oxymoron in some people’s eyes), it had better be REALLY funny, because most likely the comment will be viewed as simply callous or even offensive. Learning to be thick skinned might be an important life lesson, but so is developing a little sensitivity to other people’s point of view in public forums.

2) I suspect that Kane wrote “Don’t let in so many Jews” to tie into the article above, rather offering a specific policy proposal. Given the Jewish history of exclusion from elite east coast institutions (as was ably pointed out above), the joke was in poor taste and might give young high school student the wrong idea about Williams. Someone chancing upon the blog might get the misperception that we are biased against Jews, or deny the link between HIV and AIDS, or something equally strange/scary.

Good job provoking comments, Kane. Bad job putting Williams’ best foot forward.

#27 Comment By frank uible On June 5, 2005 @ 10:38 am

rory: Jews were not the target of my attempt at a small joke nor were any other individuals or groups except indirectly the authors of the Final Solution. I haven’t learned anything from this process (nor do I believe that I should) except that you guys are hypersensitive. And that’s your problem not mine. If I had to do it again, I would.

#28 Comment By David On June 5, 2005 @ 11:33 am

1) I was not making a joke. I was making an trenchant observation. (d)avid is correct that, had the post been about, say, Chinese success in American society, it would have had a different ending since students of Chinese descent are also present at Williams in percentages greater than in society at large.

2) Danny writes:

My brother has Crohn’s disease, which runs predominantly in Ashkenazim, and I will most likely begin to see stronger symptoms in the next few years. David, please remember that you started this discussion by talking about diseases that affect real people in very serious ways

I did not talk about diseases! Not. One. Word. I did quote the New York Times and it did refer to certain diseases, but Crohn’s was not among them.

My heart goes out to Danny, his brother and, especially, their parents. All families have their tragedies, but Crohn’s is a particularly difficult row to hoe. But does anyone really expect me not to quote a New York Times article that refers to other diseases out of concern that someone with a family member suffering from Crohn’s will be offended?

I am happy to think of myself as more sensitive than Frank — who I also think was out of line above (but not so out of line that I would delete his comment) — but surely quoting a news article does not put me beyond the pale of polite society.

I think that Rory is correct in pointing out the admissions is not a zero sum gam. I stand corrected. I also appreciate all the time and effort that he puts into educating me and others on EphBlog. I hope to have a chance to address his substantive points latter today.

#29 Comment By David On June 5, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

Rory writes:

First of all, affirmative action is not zero sum in the way you speak of it in the original post, in which one group would be targetted (Jews) so others could get in.

I retract my claim that affirmative action is zero sum. It isn’t. Consider a case where Williams refuses admission to a rich white lacrosse playing alumni daughter from Connecticut and, in her place, takes a your women from Afghanistan. I believe that the other students in the class are better off from meeting the Afghani and that the loss of the lacrosse player is lessoned because there are so many others like her still in the class.

But, although admissions is not zero sum, it is still competitive (or what is the word for a situation in which someone must lose for others to gain?). The rejected lacrosse player is still worse off because of the policy.

It sucks for those individuals, but there’s a difference between these statements:
1. We will help this group because they bring something important.
2. We will actively hurt this specific other group because they are not as valuable as others.

Maybe in intent but not in effect. The central point of my starting this discussion is to highlight the fact that a) for every place created for someone, a place must be taken away and b) that the most likely places to be taken away are those for successful groups.

No one in the admissions office is prejudiced against white women or rich families or lacrosse players. They all just want to find a place for the Afghani. They need to reject someone. So, they reject the sort of person that Williams, in their judgment, already has enough of. My point is not to question that judgment. My point is to insist that the trade-off exists (which we all seem to agree on) and to highlight that affirmative action does not just hurt the rich, WASPy applicants.

If you do not see that there would be more Jewish students at Williams if the College did not practice affirmative action — or turned down the emphasis that it places on affirmative action in the same way that it turned down the emphasis on athletics 5 years ago — then you aren’t paying attention. Similarly, if the College turned up the emphasis, tried to get to a class that was, say, 30% URM from 20\%, there would be fewer Jewish students.

Interestingly enough, this trade-off is widely recognized in the Asian American community.

#30 Comment By Rory On June 5, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

David’s part:

Thanks for the compliment:) I do see that there would be more jews were williams to not practice affirmative action, but the difference in intent between the two statements I posted is important. I can support the first, I cannot support the second, even if they cause the same harm to me. Similar to the point you’re making.

I read into Danny’s response a shock at the lightness with which serious diseases were connected to a joke about admittance into college. But that’s for someone else to address.

NOW, as for my response to Frank:

I don’t know why I’m writing this, as I personally think your foot is stuck so far down your mouth as to not merit response, but I can’t help myself.

First, before responding to my post, please read it. When I said “target”, I was referring to the Jews as targets of the final solution. And I still don’t know how you think its remotely appropriate to make a pun about the Holocaust. Oh, and by the way, had Danny been alive 60 years ago, you’re damn right Danny was a target.

I don’t ask for Frank’s post to be banned, as I think it shows something we need to accept is in his personality. I’m just disappointed and sad it is.

#31 Comment By frank uible On June 5, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

If one is emotionally abnormal, then one should not expect the world to alter its ordinary course in order to accomodate one’s abnormality. One should take action to protect one’s self from the ill effects of the abnormality. If the protective action involves excoriating others, then one should not be surprised at some counterpunching.

#32 Comment By hwc On June 5, 2005 @ 3:50 pm

To bring the topic back to admissions, I can address a couple of the questions raised above:

On “Jew Quotas”: Yes, Williams had a “Jew Quota” in place well into the mid-1960s. In fact, I believe a sometimes reader of the blog was the student who officially exceeded the “Jew Quota” for the first time, being admitted off the waitlist after initially being told that he “wasn’t exactly what the school was looking for”. He was a top, top student at a nationally recognized big-city public magnet school with heavy Jewish enrollment. Now, before we are too harsh on the old alma mater, I would point out that Davidson just this year revised their by-laws to remove a provision preventing a Jewish person from holding a position on the board of directors (decades and decades after Gov. Lehman was refused a spot on the Williams board, despite being the school’s largest benefactor.)

On “need-blind”: There is a bit of Alice in Wonderland used in the definitions of these words. What “need-blind” means is that the admissions office doesn’t know the precise amount of financial need for each student and, if necessary, there is the authority to increase the finanicial aid budget. However, make no mistake, the entire budget is predicated on knowing exactly the percentage of students who will pay full sticker price.

I hate to use Swarthmore’s numbers, but I know where to easily find them. Their percentage of full sticker price customers over the last five years has been 49%, 49%, 50%, 50%, 50%. Williams, I am quite certain, shows the same kind of “fortuitous” consistency, although Williams’ number is a somewhat higher percentage of full-fare customers. Wait…I found the Williams full-fare numbers for the last seven years: 59%, 58%, 60%, 61%, 59%, 58%, 58%.

Now, does anyone think this consistency happens by accident? It asks right on the application if the student will be applying for finanical aid. Nesbitt has stated in print that they look at parent education, parent jobs, and even zip codes. Of course, they are not “need-blind” in the true sense. They know how many full-fare kids they need and they get them, year after year after year, like clockwork. Any admissions director who misses his financial aid target is going to be looking for a job.

Amanda gave a very well written presentation of the “official” line on affirmative action. However, there is considerable Alice in Wonderland language associated with that topic, too. Schools are able to maintain the charade that it is not a quota-driven process only because they are unable to hit the desired quotas for Af-Am and Latino kids. For now, the operative quota is “as many as we can get”, so they can say, with a straight face, that there is no “firm” quota in place. I have no doubt that, should Af-Am enrollment ever hit 10% or 12% or whatever the number is within that range, Williams would stop paying Questbridge to find more. Alas, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. There were aggressive affirmative action schools that hit the 10% number 25 years ago, and have never been able to get back there. As more elite schools jumped on the affirmative action bandwagon, the competition for a very small pool of applicants became overwhelming. There just aren’t enough “prep school” URMs to go around.

#33 Comment By bareglans On June 5, 2005 @ 4:10 pm

What if you are a (non-ritutally) circumcised male, and you wish to convert to Judaism? Is it too late?

#34 Comment By rory On June 5, 2005 @ 8:42 pm

did frank just call me abnormal? or admit his own? who did the punching? counterpunching? I think I excoriated, so that means frank counterpunched and I’m “abnormal”. So is his calling me “abnormal” in a roundabout way the counterpunch? And if so, am I more or less abnormal for finding it quite a weak punch?

If the above scenario is correct, then I’m curious: how am I emotionally abnormal, frank? Really. I’m quite interested. And this time, I’ll even post my real e-mail, because I bet a lot of the other readers are tired of this bizarre back and forth.

I know I am. I’m stopping and going to bed.

#35 Comment By rory On June 5, 2005 @ 8:43 pm

of course, then I forget to post my email, which is wonderfully set up with wso’s forwarding:

rkramer@wso.williams.edu. Man I miss having that be a separate account…sniffle…the good old days:)

#36 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On June 5, 2005 @ 9:18 pm

First of all, I am pretty thick-skinned and not a big fan of P.C., but I agree that making puns out of things like slavery or genocide is in pretty poor taste, at the very least.

In a very odd coincidence (speaking of history of Jews at Williams), this piece ran in the New York Times the other day:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/business/yourmoney/05every.html

#37 Comment By frank uible On June 5, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

rory: I have nothing further to say on this subject at this juncture, but if you want to meet, I am available. It is my custom to visit Pappa Charlie’s most mornings for about an hour. I’m the 70 year old guy with a limp.

#38 Comment By Loweeel On June 6, 2005 @ 12:05 am

I think it’s safe to say that I’m both the only regular poster on here who’s actually studied Williams’ (and higher education, in general)’s “Jew quotas” in an academic environment. This was in former professor Verter’s History of American Judaism class.

First, I found nothing offensive about Kane’s comment — unlike wealth creation, where total gains are possible, admissions has a fixed target. Thus, to increase the percentage of one group, the percentage of those not in that group must go down, by definition (in a system where people must fit into one and only one group).

It’s a truism that Jews are vastly overrepresented at the intellectual ends of society, and underrepresented at the athletic ones, especially since Danny Schayes retired.

One of the rallying cries of Affirmative Action is “let’s make X look more like society/the country as a whole”. When you have a percentage floor in one group, it’s a pretty short step to a percentage cap in another. In any attempt to make a non-religious academic environment look more like the country or society as a whole, Jews are going to be shit out of luck. Once again, we’re the canary in the mine.

#39 Comment By hwc On June 6, 2005 @ 1:11 am

BTW, I just wanted to point out that full-fare customers are also subject to a quota cap. Both Swarthmore and Williams could fill their entire enrollment with full sticker-price customers if they wanted to. But, the remarkable year-to-year consistency indicates pretty clearly that both schools have set a quota for full-fare customers at roughly 50% and 58% respectively — a target set by each schools administration balancing the need for a particular revenue mix (think filling an airplane with tickets at all different prices) and other institutional goals (diversity, international, socio-economic, etc.).

These hidden admissions “quotas” go a long way towards explaining why people think elite college admissions is so random. It may not be that random when you realize that, if you are asking for financial aid, you are already competing for less than half the available slots. That’s before we even start looking at some of the other quotas.

#40 Comment By Enough On June 6, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

ENOUGH. You’re Jewish. Great. The Holocaust was bad. And guess what? Lots of other races are even today being exterminated. SO GET OVER IT.

#41 Comment By Enough is an idiot. On June 6, 2005 @ 3:02 pm

Dear ENOUGH,

You are dumb. Great. Your mother and father were dumb also. And guess what? Other commenters already established the difference between RACE and RELIGION.

#42 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On June 6, 2005 @ 3:53 pm

Perhaps we should be turning down the heat here. Simply calling people “dumb” probably won’t advance the conversation much.

For what its worth, I think the Holocaust was really quite unique – in a very bad way – because it involved the attempted extermination of an entire group of people numbering in the millions. The Germans were not seeking to assimilate the Jews, or extinguish Jewish culture/religion, or force them to move elsewhere; they systematically and deliberately murdered millions of people. My limited understanding is that the Romany people (Gypsy’s) were treated very similarly, albeit with fewer total numbers.

Very few other situations – and I don’t think any current situations qualify – are really comparable. This is not to say that the crisis in Darfur, or the on-going wars in central Africa and Chechnya, or many others like it around the world are not horrible humanitarian crises, but I don’t believe they are in the same category as the Holocaust.