Although I hate to interrupt the excellent conversation that Frank and HWC are having, I must dispute this assertion by HWC.

In simplified terms, these colleges are replacing the least engaged students from the traditional white, wealthy pool with the most engaged students from the pool of Asian American, Latino, African American and international students. The notion that this group of students, taken as a whole, reduces the academic quality or the level of classroom discourse is wide of the mark.

Some of this is true, but most of it is not, or at least it is highly misleading to anyone who can’t read the code words.

1) There is no evidence that Williams is replacing more “engaged” students with less “engaged” ones. None. Williams wants to have about 10% of the class be African-American and it finds, more or less, the most academically gifted and ambitious 50 African-Americans possible. Williams judges these applicants in the same way it judges all applicants, mostly by Academic Rank, a combination of scores and grades (and, maybe, a bit (5%?) of engagement thrown in).

2) Williams, at best, does not discriminate between white and Asian applicants. (There is some feeling that it discriminates against Asian applicants, but I do not think it is true.) Williams is not “replacing” white students with Asian students. Williams does not discriminate between whites and Asians anymore than it discriminates between Irish and Italians. Those categories are irrelevant for admissions. The reason that 10% of the students at Williams are Asian (as a against a national pool of, what, 2%?) is that Asian Americans do much better in terms of test scores and grades than non-Asian Americans.

3) The same is even more true of International students. As first reported by EphBlog, Williams has a quota for International students. Williams does not need to take active measures of any kind to “replace” white students by international students. It just needs to fairly apply the same admissions standards that it has used successfully for years.

4) It is a shame to see someone like HWC mislead our readers. Or perhaps we just disagree on the meaning of “academic quality.” Does HWC believe that, on average, the academic quality of the students at Williams is higher than that of the students at Bates or Bowdoin or wherever? Surely, he must say “Yes” to this, or the phrase “academic quality” has no meaning. But the URM students at Williams (not the Asian-American students nor the International students) have, on average, academic rankings more similar to students at Bates than to their peers at Williams. (The reason for this is that almost every URM with Williams-caliber credentials is accepted by (and attends) Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford.)

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