Tue 22 Nov 2005
Jim Kolesar has kindly replied to my concern about whether or not the College sets a quota for international students.
Williams currently expects to have international students comprise about 6% of each entering class. That number could go up or down somewhat from year to year based on the quality of the international applicant pool. I know of no college that admits international students as if they were U.S. citizens. Colleges exist in the law, including the tax law, as contributors to the national good. Their first responsibility is to advance that national good. Since students help educate each other, enrolling international students enhances the preparation that all students receive for an increasingly complex world and, happily, does broaden geographically the public good to which colleges contribute. But a college that gave itself over to educating mainly international students, which is eventually what would happen given the numbers, would have a significantly different mission, very different standing with U.S. prospective students, and greatly altered relationship with government, donors, etc.
1) Kudos to Williams and to Kolesar for being so open and honest.
2) Williams does indeed have a quota. Interesting.
3) Jim claims that “Colleges exist in the law, including the tax law, as contributors to the national good.” That’s just wrong. There is nothing in the law, tax or otherwise, about Williams needing to contribute to the “national good.” Of course, there are some complexities with regard to non-profits and the intentions of their donors (from Ephraim Williams to the present day), but the basic legal reality is that Williams is a non-profit entity, a 501(c)(3). Nothing in the law prevents Williams from having 0% or 6% or 100% international students. Non-profits, as long as they adhere to the appropriate regulations, can spend their money as they see fit. How can Kolesar not know this?
4) Doing so more research on the question, I just discovered this passage in The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. The speaker is Radcliffe Heermance, Director of Admissions at Princeton from 1922 to 1950 and a graduate of Williams (class of 1904, I think).
“But a college that gave itself over to educating many Jewish students, which is eventually what would happen given the numbers, would have a significantly different mission, very different standing with U.S. prospective students, and greatly altered relationship with government, donors, etc.”
Heermance and others of his era felt that having “too many” Jews at places like Princeton would radically change them, generally for the worse. Let in all those Jews, however clever they might be, and non-Jewish students won’t want to attend, formerly loyal alumni donors won’t want to contribute.
I had thought that such opinions were a thing of the past.
If a meritocratic admissions process leads to a Williams than is 1/3 International students, then so be it. Anyone who argues otherwise is no better than the men 50 years ago who sought to keep out the Jews.
UPDATE: As Sam Crane points out in the comment below, the “quotation” that I have attributed to Heermance is not real (although Heermance is a real person and the sentiments expressed were widely held at the time). I simply replaced “mainly international” in Kolesar’s comment with “many Jewish.” The rhetorical point was to emphasize that the rational for having a quota for International students today is mostly indistinguishable from the rationals offered 50 years ago justifying quotas for Jewish students.
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