Does this news from Michigan have anything to do with Williams?

With Michigan voters weeks away from a vote on whether to ban affirmative action, critics of the practice are releasing admissions statistics that they say show the extent of the gap between black and white applicants admitted to the University of Michigan.

The data reveal large differences in grades and standardized test scores, and indicate that black applicants are much more likely to be admitted, even with lower grades and test scores. These are the sort of data that have been influential in other states that have considered — and passed — statewide bans on affirmative action. “The people of Michigan have a right to know the extent to which discrimination is taking place,” said Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which is releasing the data today and planning a series of events in Michigan to publicize the figures.

The data came from the University of Michigan, which had to release the figures in response to the center’s Freedom of Information Act requests. Among the findings:

* The SAT median for black students admitted to Michigan’s main undergraduate college was 1160 in 2005, compared to 1260 for Hispanics, 1350 for whites and 1400 for Asians. High school grade point averages were 3.4 for black applicants, 3.6 for Hispanics, 3.8 for Asians, and 3.9 for whites.

* Black and Hispanic applicants in 2005 with a 1240 SAT and a 3.2 GPA had a 9 in 10 chance of getting in — while white and Asian applicants with the same scores had a 1 in 10 chance of getting in.


1) The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to Williams so it is not clear when, if ever, we will get this sort of data from the College. There was some discussion during the Diversity Initiatives over whether or not the College should release this data, but nothing seemed to come of it. The College’s official position is that it is willing to release data about some groups — see extensive discussion over the qualifications of athletes and legacies — but not among others, i.e., African-American and Hispanic students. The claim is that Williams does not want release aggregate data about easily identifiable groups of students. It will release about athletes and legacies because you can’t tell by looking at someone (?) whether or not she falls in this category but you can tell who is African-American.

2) This rationale is, obviously, mostly bunk. You can’t tell, at Williams, if someone is Hispanic just by looking at her since Hispanic is not a race. The College could, therefore, release data on all Hispanic students but chooses not to. Also, the reason that the College release all the data on athletes was that the powers-that-be (read: Morty) had decided that they wanted to reduce the emphasis on athletics in admissions. (How will you know when Williams wants to reduce the emphasis on URM’s? When a committee is formed to study the matter and releases a similarly detailed report.) The reason that the College releases data on legacies is that their strong credentials demonstrate that the College gives very little weight to legacy status.

3) From all that I have read on the topic, these statistics are typical for an elite college (although the SAT scores at Williams would be about 100 points higher for each group). See, for example, The Shape of the River. The problem that Michigan (like Williams) faces is even though there are African-American and Hispanic applicants with academic credentials similar to those of its white/Asian students, almost all those applicants are accepted by places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.

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