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True and Well-Intentioned

[I posted this yesterday but, as Rory and Sophmom pointed out, the topic was hardly in keeping with the spirit of such an historic inauguration. So, I removed the post. Let’s have the discussion today instead.]

A student writes:

I think the following two facts account for a good portion of the reasons Ephblog never manages to have constructive dialog on diversity issues:

Well, I think that many of our discussions are productive, but they could always be better. I appreciate this student taking the time to contribute such a thoughtful comment and wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention. Would this student like to join us as an (anonymous or not) author? The best way of creating a constructive dialog is to bring together open-minded Ephs with differing views. Please join us! We would love to feature your thoughts on the front page, which gets many more readers than our comment threads. [I also encourage other authors to pull good writing out of the threads and give it prominent placement on the main page, either with or without additional commenting.]

1. Every so often, DK says something really stupid, or at least very poorly expressed so as to seem stupid, and then spends a lot of words on disingenuously defending himself rather than admitting his mistake.

Guilty as charged! I hope that I did this less often in 2008 then in 2004. I thank Sophmom, JG, Rory and others for (trying to) help me to express my opinions in a more productive fashion. My motto for 2009? No more disingenuous defenses!

2. As a result of (1), people tend to interpret all of DK’s statements in the worst of all possible lights, even though the vast majority of said statements are both true and well-intentioned.

Indeed! I am often sad when Professor Sam Crane does this, especially since there is so much we agree on with respect to other topics. Indeed, given how much I defended/supported his point of view during our debates over athletic admissions several years ago, I would have expected at least a charitable reading from him.

But I also suspect that this student underestimates the antipathy of many members of the Williams community (Not Sam!) toward truth-tellers on this topic. Imagine that someone without my history made the same sorts of statements about the relative academic qualifications of different groups of Williams students in, say, the Record. She would meet with as much vitriol there as I do here.

For example, I honestly see nothing remotely offensive about stating that in order to maintain reasonable diversity, Williams is currently forced by the nature of its applicant pool to accept black students that it would not accept if they were Chinese-American (i.e., Williams has lower standards for admitting black students than students of other races). It’s a simple truth.

Correct. And when was the last time that this truth was expressed in the Record? Or by a member of the faculty? There are some simple truths which are not spoken at Williams.

The dilemma that I face (and it would be nice to get some advice) is how to express this simple truth without sounding “insulting.” Recall Sophmom’s comment from the same thread.

If you don’t get how this is insulting to the african american students that are accepted at Williams, and more importantly, how DK’s exact same point could have been made without a comment like this, then far be it from me to explain.

I honestly don’t know how I could make the points that I want to make (or how this student would have made the point he makes above) and not be perceived as “insulting,” at least by some members of the Williams community. I think that this is a real problem. I don’t deny that some Ephs (not necessarily speaking of Sophmom or anyone else in particular) find these words insulting, I just don’t know how to express the same thoughts without being so perceived.

I believe that Professor Crane (and many others on the Williams faculty) think that the answer is that no one should ever write or say (or think?) these thoughts, at least in public. Even though the truth is that Williams admissions standards for African-American applicants are significantly different then for Chinese-American applicants, we are not allowed to discuss/debate this fact. Sophmore makes a similar point when she writes:

I don’t want to hear any facts and data about test scores and dissatisfied students. I read the reports, and I absolutely will not argue about it. Please. That stuff should be used to make things better for future students, not insult past or present ones.

This is a perfectly reasonable point of view and one consistent with Sophmom’s position on athletic tips: we should not discuss the actual facts in public. It is pointless and, often, needlessly painful and insulting.

And, yet, though I respect this viewpoint, I must disagree. Who is accepted and who is rejected by the Admissions Office is one of the most important policy questions that Williams College confronts. Even if we refuse to discuss it, refuse to reveal to outsiders the actual standards, those decisions are made, that policy is implemented. Someone becomes an Eph and someone else — someone we will never get the chance to know, someone who might have contributed much to the Williams community — is rejected. In the context of what Williams is and what Williams will become, there are few more important topics. As long as there is an EphBlog, I will do my best to a) Accurately describe the College’s policies and b) Offer my opinion on them.

How different are the admissions standards for Chinese-American and African-American students? Well, needless to say, the College refuses to answer that question. Race and Class Matters at an Elite College reports that the average SAT scores (math plus verbal) in the Amherst class of 2009 are 1469 for whites and 1272 for blacks. (Page 197, footnote 23.) That roughly 200 point difference is about what you would find at Williams as well. [Recall this discussion from last year.]

Now, Williams is not Amherst and white students have different average SAT scores than Chinese-American students. But this is the order of magnitude of admissions preferences that we are talking about. Similar differences exist in terms of high school grades, other standardized tests and so on. Moreover, these differences are still very large even when we adjust for things like school quality, parental education, socio-economic class and anything else that you would like to name.

Consider two high school students who are identical in most every way except for race. Both go to Milton (or a lousy public high school). Both have fathers and mothers who are doctors (or are raised by unemployed single moms). Both excel in student government (or work part-time). The Chinese-American applicant needs to score around 200 points higher on her Math + Verbal SAT score to be competitive with the African-American applicant, and have similarly higher grades and other achievement test scores.

As always, reasonable Ephs will disagree over whether or not this is a good policy. I, personally, think that these differences are too large and lead to all sorts of unfortunate effects on campus. That’s one of the reasons why I propose using Tyng Fellowships to convince more 1500-scoring African-American students to choose Williams over Harvard.

But, obviously, we can’t even begin to have a conversation about what the Williams admissions policy should be until we can honestly discuss what the current admissions policy actually is. Does today mark the beginning of that conversation?

See below for the rest of the student’s excellent comment. Read the whole thing.

Blacks admitted to Williams are, on average, less qualified academically than the rest of the student body (of course they may be better qualified in other ways – life experiences and so forth). Since, all other things equal, Williams admits students with higher academic qualifications over students with lower qualifications, it follows that if in the future more blacks with higher qualifications applied to Williams, others with lesser qualifications who are currently accepted would not be (although that was your phrasing, not DK’s, and it seems to me a little shaky because it assumes that Williams has already hit an upper bound on the number of black students it’s willing to admit, making black admissions a zero-sum game). But barring the last, these statements are not controversial, and I honestly can’t imagine how any of them can be legitimately seen as offensive (I know that they are seen as offensive by some, but I can only chalk that up to either confusion or false indignation).

To offer a personal analogy, my home state is not known for having great schools, and on average, students from my state score relatively quite poorly on standardized tests. Yet it doesn’t offend me when someone mentions that fact – I don’t take it personally just because I happen to be a member of a group which is below-average overall. Similarly I can’t see how a black Eph could take any kind of offense when someone points out that black Ephs are, in general, academically below-average (albeit not hugely so). Statements about the general properties of a group are not personal attacks on individual members of that group, and shouldn’t be interpreted that way unless you have good reason to believe that it’s really the intent of the person making the statements. In this case, I see no reason to believe that DK has anything personal against black Ephs (if anything, the opposite – he’s proposing to give them more money!).

My issue with Prof. Crane was similar. DK was making a fairly reasonable, and probably true, technical argument about how Williams over-reports diversity numbers, and instead of engaging the argument, Prof. Crane saw fit instead to attack DK as not liking, wanting, or understanding diversity, based presumably on some of his past statements (although having read Ephblog for the past few years, I personally have not gotten that impression, which makes me think that again this is an issue of interpretation and of impugning the worst possible motives based only on a few stupid statements). I really don’t see why it’s so hard to just engage the arguments actually being made, rather than dredging up old debates and making personal accusations (in Prof. Crane’s case) or taking offense where almost certainly none was intended (in the case of this thread).

The problem is that this discussion causes real pain. People are offended and insulted. My intent, although non-malicious, is irrelevant to how some members of the Williams community perceive my writing. This saddens me. I am not sure what to do about it. But I insist on continuing the conversation. There is no higher value in an academic institution than open-minded inquiry.

I interpret Sophmom’s position (corrections welcome!) to be that we should avoid these sorts of admissions-related discussions, whether the topic be preferences for athletes or African-Americans. That is a reasonable view. Much less defensible, however, is Sam Crane’s position (and, again, apologies if I a misconstruing it) that discussions about athletic preferences are fine but affirmative action is sacred. Consider Sam’s comments (links above) about tips.

So, I run into a new faculty member at the coffee shop yesterday. This is her first spring teaching here. I ask her how it is going. She says she is surprised how, in one of her classes, a significant portion of the class – a portion that is disproportionally made up of athletes – is so willing to shirk their academic work. She is new here and had believed all the stuff about how extraordinary Williams students are and, in that context, she is simply shocked at how mediocre a certain number are. Later in the day I run into a colleague, who has been here five or six years, and knows the ropes well. She says her classes are going well. In one, virtually all students are in the game, doing the reading, thinking things through. In another, there is a knot of students – again, athletes (how does she know? Their attendance is the worst because they bug out for practices and games), who are slacking. Her answer: ignore them! If they are unwilling to take class seriously, she will not take them seriously and just give out the Cs and Ds at the end of a semester. Not much different than community college.

I hear these kinds of stories often. I have experienced it myself. Are the slackers tips? Who knows. But let’s, at least, back off the inflated rhetoric about how great we are and how exceptional Williams is. It is not. It is just like every other college, where underachievers weigh down the intellectual seriousness of certain classes.

We have gone too far. The only thing scaling back (cutting in half?) tips would do would be to increase the losses of our sports teams. Maybe a little adversity would be good educationally!

I would not deny that there are, among Williams students, some extraordinary intellects. I am not speaking about all Williams students. Rather – and I base this on my own experience with some very unintellectual students (no, Aidan, not intellectual in some other form, but just straight out slackers) and from conversations with some remarkably bright and accomplished students who sit in my office and complain about “Williams culture” – I am pointing to an anti-intellectual strand of student culture that seems to loom fairly large here.

Why is it important that we “compete with any other teams in Div III”? If athletics have any importance at Williams, it would seem to me to be a matter of what they do for individuals who compete (sound mind, sound body and all that). Whether we can beat schools from New Jersey or Wisconsin (full disclosure: I am a Badger), seems wholly immaterial to the mission of the college. We do not need to win at sports to be a great liberal arts college. (Please note: I am not anti-sports, just anti-obsession-with-sports-to-such-a-degree-that-it-undermines-the-academic-mission-of-the-college). We do not need tips to do what we do best here. Tips simply allow us to beat other teams. And, on the downside, they keep “walk-ons” from attaining the full benefits of the athletic experience (or so some have argued here). Let’s just chop them in half to start, and go from there….

Just imagine a Williams professor making exactly the same comments about African-American students.

And, of course, the punchline is that the preference for African-American students is about twice as large as that for athletes. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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#1 Comment By Sam On January 21, 2009 @ 8:45 am

I will respond briefly.

1) If you want to avoid disingenuous defenses, cut out the cutesy “not that there is anything wrong with that!” I do not believe you believe there is nothing wrong.

2) To be painfully obvious: dealing with the lingering effects of centuries of racist and racialist thought and practice is not at all similar to recruiting athletes to win Div III competitions. Not. At. All. If you have trouble with this point, I would suggest an introductory course in Africana Studies. Your punchline, therefore, is a non sequitur.

3) My experience is that the tips problem, and the associated classroom problems, have improved since I wrote those comments you quote here. I should also point out that you cherry-picked my comments, avoiding my similar defense of diversity v. athletic recruitment five years ago.

4) Williams creates significant socio-economic and political effects in society at large. We are, effectively, participating in the production of the elite. I believe we must attend to those socio-economic and political effects and, in the current linguistic and legal environment, “diversity” is a means to that end. I believe that it is of the utmost importance for the college to work to create and maintain the broadest diversity possible. That will not happen by the “magic of the market place.” Markets are more problematic in dealing with the lingering effects of centuries of racist and racialist thought and practice than are the consciously designed policies of the college. Yes, our diversity policies and experience are imperfect. Yes, we need to continue to work hard at it. But, yes, it is vitally important that we do, if we want to live up to one of the goals stated recently by Morty: to ensure that the college is a vehicle for socio-economic mobility not a engine of stratification. I believe in that goal, I will accept a pay freeze to achieve it.

#2 Comment By David On January 21, 2009 @ 9:05 am

I appreciate Sam taking the time to write this reply. I do not think that we are that far away from agreement, or at least from understanding our disagreements clearly. My thoughts to each of Sam’s points:

1) My writing has (at least!) two flaws: disingenuous defenses (which I will try to do less of) and cutesy irreverence (like “wrong wit that”). I get the sense that some readers, at least, like the irreverence. But I could be wrong!

2) I agree! But our dispute is not: Must athletic and URM admissions be handled the same way by the College in all aspects. Answer: No, for the reasons that Sam outlines. The issue is: Should the College be as transparent, discuss as openly, with regard to these topics. Yes, I argue.

Let me be specific. Imagine that Morty decided tomorrow to create a Committee to URM Admissions which then conducted itself just as the Committee on Varsity Athletics did 7 years ago: interview people, look at data, conduct surveys and write up a thorough, detailed, high quality report. I think that this would be an excellent thing, that an academic institution functions best when it conducts business in the open. I would certainly nominate Sam, and other thoughtful faculty like him, to serve on that Committee.

As long as Sam would have no problem if Morty (or the Trustees) created such a Committee with that mandate, I do not think that Sam and I really disagree on the topic of how such discussions should be handled.

If Sam would be against the creation of such a Committee, then we do disagree, and I would be curious to know why he objects.

3) I am glad to hear that the situation has improved. (And I have heard similar sentiments from other faculty.) And, for whatever reason, Williams athletic dominance has continued. So, perhaps it is time to improve the situation even further, to raise the standards for tips again? Pretty soon, Williams won’t be giving any preference to athletes (and that would be a good thing).

With regard to cherry-picking, that was not my intention. I encourage everyone to read the three threads which I linked to.

4) I think that this is a fair point but one with which I profoundly disagree. Williams should strive to be the best college in the world. Leave political goals (helping the environment, increasing economic mobility, improving racial equality, et cetera) to the political process.

#3 Comment By Sam On January 21, 2009 @ 9:10 am

One more point: framing the issue in a manner that pits one sector of the community against another is deeply, deeply unhelpful in all sorts of ways.

#4 Comment By frank uible On January 21, 2009 @ 9:21 am

In my view, the primary reason for Williams’ recruitment of athletes should be that dedicated athletes bring a certain desirable tone in terms of physical courage, optimism, assertiveness, action and leadership to campus, which tone would be otherwise difficult to obtain without them – not to win athletic competitions.

#5 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 9:40 am

comment 14 here: http://www.ephblog.com/2009/01/19/tyngs-for-african-americans/#comments

i have only a little more to add. and while i do appreciate you making the smaller changes that I mentioned in our email conversation, I’m disappointed you didn’t make the larger one. “truth-teller.” LOL–no one here denies that race is a factor in admissions–we just don’t have a problem with that. 200 points? 100 points? they still graduate at a very high rate (while not equal to other groups, still high. and the “mismatch” hypothesis does not explain that discrepancy), they add a lot to Williams, they do great things after graduating, and they are ephs. What more do I need? In other words, why does it matter that their SATs on aggregate are lower if they improve the school experience and they gain from it themselves and it helps improve the diversity of society’s power elite?

#6 Comment By hwc On January 21, 2009 @ 10:06 am

As for Chinese Americans, can’t we all work for the day when yellow will be mellow?

#7 Comment By sophmom On January 21, 2009 @ 11:39 am

This is a perfectly reasonable point of view and one consistent with Sophmom’s position on athletic tips: we should not discuss the actual facts in public. It is pointless and, often, needlessly painful and insulting.

You just couldn’t help yourself could you David? I told you yesterday that I was not inclined to have this discussion and so you decided you better throw in a little extra bait.

You know, the most interesting thing about you, is how you inadvertently, over and over, fully illustrate the specific criticisms that many have of you. And the absurd sentence above, is the perfect example of why I, and many others, do not relish debate with you. (Please note the “with you”)

It has nothing to do with the subject matter, but with your lack of understanding, your inability to take a point and move on, and your overriding tendency to cherry-pick and twist, often in a very insulting way, in order to make your (often flawed from the get-go) point.

I have mostly, been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, believing that you are indeed, just obtuse, but now I’m not so sure. I really think (and especially after how you cherry-picked Sam’s comment above from a thread that is almost five years old) that you have purposely created an argument here, that has absolutley NOTHING to do with trying to make anything better for anyone, anywhere.

Why didn’t you also pick out Joe Cruz’s amazing comment about the power of engaging students? Or Jeff’s beautiful bit of reasoning based on the point of view of a student? Both of which Sam, in the very same thread, referenced as bringing insight and balance to that conversation? I’ll tell you why. Because cherry-picking Sam’s, accomplished several of your goals; baiting Sam, upholding your own staid viewpoint, and getting more attention, all of which worked, and NONE of which serves to encourage great discussion or make things better for anyone.

So, long story short, that is why I do not like to discuss anything with you. Your goals are not “true and well-intentioned” (which you have now proven to me without a doubt), and unlike almost every other blogger on this site, you seem to have ZERO ability to reach a higher understanding based on argument.

#8 Comment By current eph On January 21, 2009 @ 11:45 am

Rory-

You don’t think race is a problem at Williams? The graduation rates are lower. The satisfaction rates are lower. By virtually every quantitative measure we have, Williams–in one way or another–isn’t doing as good of a job serving its URMs as it could.

Now, whether these problems begin at admissions or later is difficult (or impossible) to say. However, I think–given these problems–it would be a mistake to dismiss the differing admissions standards, as these quite possibly could be an underlying cause.

#9 Comment By sophmom On January 21, 2009 @ 11:53 am

Who is accepted and who is rejected by the Admissions Office is one of the most important policy questions that Williams College confronts.

So true. And thank the lord that you have no say in the matter.

I only feel for them that they have to hear their efforts undermined here on Ephblog. The lack of depth and understanding you display and perpetuate must cause them great dismay at worst, and eye-rolling at best.

#10 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

current eph–

race isn’t a problem. Race relations and cultural misunderstandings are (sorry, i’m in the mood for being a stickler).

There’s a lot of evidence that the “mismatch hypothesis” (students are getting accepted into schools that are too selective for their abilities) is not empirically valid. Massey and Fischer, 2007 even has williams in their sample. or Tienda and Alon, 2005). David’s SAT numbers, also, are not quite the right comparison…once we control for other factors, compared to athletes, Black applicants only get a 30 point SAT advantage, and compared to legacies only a 70 point advantage. And no disrespect to the psychologist who wrote the book david cites, but i’ll take the samples used by Massey, Espenshade, and Tienda as sociologists any day over one school (oh, and amherst is in Massey’s sample too! lol).

In short, my dismissal of differing admissions standards is based in empirical evidence. Something else is at work…in models I’ve run looking only at black students (using the same sample as Massey), high school gpa (we didn’t use SAT scores) had an effect on college gpa, but it’s small in power (standardized coefficient of .04) and the full model still only explains 1/3 of the variance in black student college gpa. those numbers are generally true across racial groups.

Something else is going on. But beyond that, there’s the frame of the question. David posits something of a zero-sum game: pick one applicant of these two! I’d rather discuss what you bring up–how williams is or is not serving its Black (or Hispanic or Asian or legacy or athlete, i don’t care which) population well and what it can improve. Every student at williams is pretty damn smart…there’s no reason any of them in a residential college that small should fail or be unsatisfied with their experience (well, there are some reasons out of Williams’ control…like the cold, or homesickness, or family problems back home. but outside of those)

#11 Comment By David On January 21, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

Sam notes correctly:

One more point: framing the issue in a manner that pits one sector of the community against another is deeply, deeply unhelpful in all sorts of ways.

Agreed. But let me differentiate between two different ways of framing: current members of the community versus future (potential) members.

I agree that I would not want to “pit” current sectors of the community against each other. Everyone at Williams now is an Eph, no better or worse than any other member, regardless of how she arrived. It does not matter what caused the admissions office to accept her. All that matters in judging her is how she does at Williams and what she contributes to the community.

So, the last thing I would like to see is, say, the Chinese-American student association at Williams (is there one?) thinking that it is useful fight against the Black Student Union.

I (and, I am sure, Sam) judge each Eph as an individual. Any Eph is welcome to take my course, attend my talks at OCC, seek out my advice on courses or apply to my internship. I do not care about what someone did in high school. I care about what they’ve done at Williams.

But, at the same time, we must be cold-hearted and calculating when it comes to picking future members of the Williams community. Even as we blog, the Admissions Office is making decisions. They are rejecting some and accepting others. A central purpose of EphBlog is to provide a forum at which open-minded Ephs might discuss exactly what the Admissions Office is doing as well as what it should do.

Does this conversation pit “one sector of the community against another?” Perhaps. Admissions is zero sum game and, if one extra student of type X is accepted than another of type Y must be rejected. Yet that is a conversation that, literally, hundreds of Williams student/alumni/faculty/parents want to read and participate in. EphBlog provides them that opportunity.

#12 Comment By current eph On January 21, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

Rory–

“adjusted for other factors,” a 70 point difference as compared to legacies (a much better point of comparison than athletes) actually sounds pretty significant. I would have guessed it was much smaller, given that I am assuming those “other factors” you mention include things like family income.

My point isn’t that AA is entirely responsible for the gap in satisfaction and graduation rate in colleges. My point isn’t even that AA is partially responsible for this. Rather, I am arguing that as long as there is a gap in satisfaction and graduation rate for URMs as compared to non-URMs, we shouldn’t rule out any potential causes. Given that there appears to be some correlation between high school grades/SATs and graduation rates and college grades, AA could very realistically be one cause of these issues in college for URMs. (Alternatively, as you suggest, there might be other much more notable causes).

I do agree that we should be focusing much more on the causes of this gap than we are. However, David is right in that as long as AA might be a significant cause, we should not simply dismiss its effects.

#13 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

current eph–empirically, however, the mismatch hypothesis is not supported. So how else would affirmative action have an effect? Only through mediating factors.

a 70 point SAT gap really still isn’t very big in the scheme of things. someone else who cares more deeply about that than i can explain how large it is in chance of getting into a school. i’d gather its actually small. just like the net effect of affirmative action on white applicants’ chance of admission is actually quite small. almost infintesimal, really. The correlation between high school gpa and SAT and graduation and grades is SMALL. I can’t stress that enough. We’re getting very hyped up about something that has a not-that-substantial predictive effect. I also wonder why we care at some level–B or B+, hell B or A- what does it matter substantively while already in an elite environment? graduation, i care about, certainly.

david–“cold-hearted and calculating when it comes to picking future members of the Williams community” NOPE. no we don’t. no we shouldn’t, and thankfully, no our admissions office isn’t. And your attempt to avoid Sam’s critique is flimsy, at best.current vs. future…but in a year, that future is current. and considering you’ve been baiting and baiting and baiting this same topic for well over four years, the “future” you speak of is not only the current but also the past!

#14 Comment By Sam On January 21, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

The present v. future Eph distinction does not hold up. Any current Eph is likely to read your arguments about future Ephs as directed toward themselves. And that’s divisive. And that’s what you do here.

Also, the invocation of “leave political goals… to the politicians” is obfuscatory. To tell the truth, evading the question of the socio-economic and political effects of the college is an endorsement of a certain set of those effects (in the same manner that a non-decision is a decision, as you will remember from your political science classes). If the College used your criteria (e.g. heavily weighted toward SATS), it is safe to say that admissions would be skewed toward richer, whiter and better connected individuals (I will leave it to Rory to provide further data on this, if need be). And that is to accept the college as an engine of stratification, simply reproducing existing socio-economic and political inequalities. College admission is pulled in that direction to begin with, which is why particular efforts are needed to push it back toward being a vehicle for social mobility.
So, it would seem, your notion of “the best college in the world,” accepts the reproduction of existing social and cultural stratification.

#15 Comment By Ronit On January 21, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

Williams should strive to be the best college in the world. Leave political goals (helping the environment, increasing economic mobility, improving racial equality, et cetera) to the political process.

David, you’re smart enough to know this is nonsense.

#16 Comment By David On January 21, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

Sam writes:

The present v. future Eph distinction does not hold up. Any current Eph is likely to read your arguments about future Ephs as directed toward themselves. And that’s divisive. And that’s what you do here.

Does that mean that we are never allowed to discuss proposed changes in admissions? Consider the issue of tips. Right now, Williams has 66 of them, 66 students in each class chosen by coaches who would not have been accepted at Williams otherwise. (Previous discussion here.) I bet that Sam (and a majority of the faculty) think that this number is too high and that it should be brought down. (I have had conversations with faculty about this topic.) Aren’t we allowed to talk about that?

Current athletes will understand that this conversation, while not “directed toward” them as individuals is as relevant to them (and future students like them) as this discussion of preferences for African-Americans is for them. Why can we talk about one and not the other?

Or consider my proposal to focus Tyng Scholarships in high achieving African-American applicants. (I would be curious what Sam thinks of this idea.) There are a dozen or so non-African-American Tyngs on campus today, students who (were they applying to Williams in the future) would not win a Tyng if my proposal went into effect. Might such Tyngs see the discussion as “directed toward themselves?” Perhaps. But then how can we ever talk about this idea? How can we ever discuss any change in admissions policy?

As always, I am happy to figure out (read: Be taught by others) how to conduct these discussions in a more sensitive and productive manner, how to make sure that no one feels singled out, how to focus the debate on the future without attacking any current Ephs.

But we must allow the discussion, for those who want to participate, to go forward.

#17 Comment By Sam On January 21, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

One more time: athletic recruitment is not the same as diversity. Apples and oranges. I have no position on the Tyng.

#18 Comment By David On January 21, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

Rory asks:

In other words, why does it matter that their SATs on aggregate are lower if they improve the school experience and they gain from it themselves and it helps improve the diversity of society’s power elite?

It matters because of the students that Williams rejected but would have accepted if those spots were available.

The situation is identical with athletic admissions. Imagine an opponent of the changes that Morty made 7 years ago asking “Why does it matter that their SATs on aggregate are lower if they improve the school experience and they gain from it themselves?”

The answer is not that these students are a drag on Williams. They aren’t. They are wonderful, as are all Ephs. The issue is the students we do not see, the applicants we do not meet, the Ephs that are-not-but-would-be with a different admissions system. They are (perhaps) even more wonderful.

Either you think that Williams, right at this very moment, has the ideal admissions system, that every rejection is correct and every acceptance perfect, or you think that improvement is possible. For example, perhaps Rory thinks that Williams would be better off with 10 more African-American students (or International students or whatever-category-you-like). Could be true? But, if you believe that, then you need to talk about changing the policy we have, changing the rules so that some students who are currently accepted by Williams are, in the future, rejected.

That is a difficult conversation to have, but have it we must.

#19 Comment By current eph On January 21, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

Rory,

I’d be interested in evidence about the mismatch theory, either way. From what I understand, studies have shown that there is a correlation between SATs/HS grades and College Grades. Whether this is a weak correlation or a strong correlation is not nearly as important as whether or not there is a correlation. If such a correlation exists, and if URMs tend to have lower entering SATs/HS grades than non-URMs, well, wouldn’t this show that at least part of the “problem” in URMs performance in college AA?

I’m sorry Rory–I am actually pretty strongly in favor of AA, and feel like I would be sympathetic to your point, but I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

#20 Comment By Sam On January 21, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

And here’s where I get off. It is, of course, impossible to know what might have been with students who might have been accepted, etc. Unless you can demonstrate some problem with things as they are, as opposed to what might be (in the best of all possible of the best of all possible worlds…), we are simply spouting hot air. And even though Williamstown could use a few extra degrees of heat on a cold day, this is not intellectually productive. What is the problem, David, the real-world, empirical problem?

#21 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 3:04 pm

David-

oh come on. that’s missing the point completely. but nevermind, i’m not bothering with you on a topic we’ve bickered about for years. i’m done with that for now. if the students who benefited from affirmative action are a net good, why are you arguing that they should be taken away from the school? In other words, the duty is on you to show me the actual harm for williams that affirmative action is causing.

current eph–don’t be sorry…i’m speaking in the terms of someone who studies this as a ph.d student. I might be going too quickly. Here’s the argument in a hopefully more clear way:

The “mismatch” theory is critical to opposition to affirmative action. Basically, it argues that students who benefit from affirmative action in admissions then get screwed because they can’t keep up in the more selective/elite school. However, research (the studies I mentioned earlier) has shown (with a single exception in a law review article that has been criticized by other researchers in that same law review. plus, that was only for law students) that students with similar high school GPAs and SATs who go to less elite schools get roughly the same grades and graduation rates as those who go to the more elite schools. So it isn’t the case that being a beneficiary of affirmative action has a negative effect on student academic success.

GPA and SAT do correlate (not particularly well…especially not after freshman year, i believe) with college grades. but in the scheme of things–and particularly within the subset of schools that are “selective” or “highly selective” that correlation doesn’t lead to many problems for students.

Basically, be the “typical” Black student at Williams or be rejected and get into the tier below Williams (pick your example school), they’ll most likely have about the same GPA and about the same chance of graduating on time. The mismatch hypothesis argues that they wouldn’t.

This is a good quote from Massey and Fischer: “Whatever the effects of affirmative action in raising or lowering the odds of academic success, they are relatively minor compared with the influence of factors such as socioeconomic status and academic preparation. Greater attention should probably be paid to improving the access of poor children of all races to high-quality schooling than to arguing about the relatively small effects of affirmative action on academic achievement”

#22 Comment By current eph On January 21, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

Ah, I gotcha. However, the basic point remains–URMs are not doing as well academically at Williams than non-URMs (either in terms of graduation rate or GPAs). That seems to be a problem that we should be concerned about. Now, the critique of the mismatch theory seems to imply that this performance gap at Williams is due to entering students’ profiles; even while they may get X grades and have Y graduation rates elsewhere, X and Y will remain lower than the A and B gpas and graduation rates that we hope for at Williams. One easy “fix” for this “problem” would be to somehow find URMs whose entering numbers will lead them to get A and B gpas and graduation rates. However, if we view the problem as such, then we can possibly stop viewing it as a problem? In other words, if based on their pre-college indicators URMs are doing just as well at Williams as they would at a less competitive college, well, that implies that they’re performing exactly as we should expect them to, and that there is no URM underperformance happening at Williams.

I guess ideally we should be aiming for URM overperformance at Williams, and in that case we shouldn’t remain satisfied for a marginal amount of underperformance. Then, the question becomes: what can we do so that URMs at Williams are significantly more likely to graduate at Williams/earn a high GPA, than if they were enrolled at a less competitive college. Clearly, if this is our question, than the admissions side of the equation becomes much less important.

#23 Comment By ’10 On January 21, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

Prof. Crane is right that athletic recruitment is a very different topic from diversity, and it’s perfectly legitimate to have different opinions on the two subjects. But I think Dave’s point is that the arguments for and against public discussion of these issues are similar – both issues are of great relevance to the future of Williams, but are also very delicate and can be painful to discuss (and potentially insulting to current students). Dave’s argument is that if you’re willing to allow discussion of athletic tips, you should also be willing to allow discussion of diversity for the same reasons, even if your actual positions on the two issues are wildly different. I think that’s a more defensible position than the idea that if you oppose athletic tips, you should also oppose affirmative action, which is what many people seem to be (correctly, but irrelevantly) arguing against.

sophmom: I don’t believe DK was trying to bait you. He re-stated your comment as one example of a valid position – that whatever benefits might be gained from discussing divisive issues are outweighed by the pain caused by the discussion. Was that not the point you were trying to make? It certainly read that way to me, and if so, it seems relevant to the current discussion, as an example of the position Dave is arguing against.

rory: We’d all like to think that the admissions office is warm-hearted, in the sense that they feel real sorrow every time they have to reject someone. But still, they do have to reject people, however warmly, and those decisions are are based on a set of carefully calculated priorities. I assume that’s what Dave was referring to.

Sam: great point on non-decisions as decisions. On your later comment, of course it’s impossible to know what might have been if Williams accepted different students. No one can know exactly how someone will do at Williams based only on their application and a few test scores. But it’s the job of the admissions office to make the best guesses possible, based on broad principles like “all else held equal, students with higher academic ratings are more likely to contribute intellectually to the college community.” It’s not an absolute, and there are many, many cases where that principle does not hold, but as a guideline it’s the best we have. Now, current black Ephs might be wonderful people and brilliant students, and I personally know many that are, but they are, I think, on average a bit less academically successful than other students. That’s the “problem with things as they are”, as you put it. Dave is proposing to remedy it by recruiting higher-qualified black applicants. Some of those (on paper) higher-qualified applicants may in reality not be any better (in whatever sense you care to measure) than the ones Williams currently admits, but on average we should expect that they would be – to expect the opposite would be silly (similarly, rory: just because current AA admits are a “net good” does not mean they couldn’t be better). Would they be enough better in any meaningful sense to justify awarding them hundreds of thousands of Tyng dollars, thus denying that money to other deserving applicants? I don’t know. Dave’s argument is that they would. Your argument seems to be that we can’t know, and so it’s not worth discussing?

rory again: I think (and again, I have no hard evidence for this, but this is the impression I’ve gotten from these discussions) that black students at Williams tend not to do as well as white students. If the mismatch hypothesis is false, meaning that black students will tend to do equally well at different schools, then that would seem to indicate that the problem is not with Williams’ specific campus culture or intellectual environment. But if (as you claim) high school GPA and SAT scores don’t correlate well with final college GPAs, and if college choice also has little effect, then how do you account for the differences in performance?

#24 Comment By hwc On January 21, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

In other words, the duty is on you to show me the actual harm for williams that affirmative action is causing.

Not exactly. We have this pesky little thing called the Constitution and various amendments. The Supreme Court has held, and there is little debate, that racially-based selection criteria are unconstitutional and illegal for any school receiving federal funds.

Affirmative action only exists as a limited exception granted by the courts in order to achieve some positive benefit (which does NOT include redress of past greivances).

Thus, to argue that affirmative action is justifiable as long as it does no harm is incorrect. The burden of proof has to be that affirmative action accomplishes a signficant community benefit sufficient to justify waiving constitutional equal rights protection.

#25 Comment By ’10 On January 21, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

Here’s one way to frame this debate: should it be Williams’ goal to have the best student body possible, or instead to choose its student body in a way that will best serve society? If the former, then it makes sense to try and poach highly-qualified URM students from the Ivys, thus improving URM scores at Williams. If the latter, than we should be content to leave those students (who will already receive great educations) and admit students who would not otherwise be admitted to an elite school, because these are the people for whom we can really make a difference.

#26 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

current–yes. you basically nailed it. affirmative action isn’t the problem–unequal preparation before college is. Affirmative action does nothing to make that actual problem worse, and if any school can help students improve past what SATs and high school grades would predict, shouldn’t it be the more elite school like williams? At the same time, all black students are underperforming compared to white students, regardless of their academic prep for college. So something is still broken at Williams in terms of Black student performance, but it ain’t affirmative action. That part I didn’t make clear in my earlier comment.

’10–david says “we”. he isn’t in the admissions office, so i assumed he was speaking about this blog. perhaps i’m wrong. and yeah, your point is valid. It’s part of why i didn’t like admissions work…i really felt badly for some of the kids we rejected (not at williams).

’10 again :P –yes and no. The mismatch hypothesis shows that black students who benefit from affirmative action are not unduly hurt. However, Black students in general–including those who would be predicted to do well at Williams (the Black AR 1, to put it in David’s preferred terminology) underperform. However, because that underperformance is not specific to those who benefited from affirmative action, it is reasonable to say that affirmative action is doing no harm to students, and Williams should focus additional resources on improving the pipeline however it can and in improving the support it gives students coming from less rigorous schooling, especially early in their college career–as well as figuring out why all Black students (regardless of academic prep and socioeconomic status) are underperforming.

The critical point is that the totality of Black “underperformance” is actually the result of a complicated web of academic disadvantage earlier in life, socioeconomic disadvantage, stereotype threat and some other, unknown quantities (a better understanding of cultural capital specific to academic processes–like how to write a bibliography or do research, etc–is my hypothesis). It isn’t the result of affirmative action and being particularly unable to deal with Williams.

In fact, if we’re worried about taking people at Williams who can’t hack the academic experience, the Massey and Fischer article has clear evidence that we should be lessening the legacy preference, not the URM preference. I take no stand on that, as again, I think this is mostly a ridiculous waste of time–how, exactly, is the williams student body in need of improvement? Considering the applicant pool, I’m not sure it is. Better to spend our time trying to improve the applicant pool and our resources for enrolled ephs.

#27 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

hwc,

the supreme court has found that there is such a benefit. so in this case, the ball is back in david’s court. that’s also a somewhat bizarre reading of the michigan cases.

#28 Comment By hwc On January 21, 2009 @ 4:26 pm

that’s also a somewhat bizarre reading of the michigan cases

Hardly. The opinions in both Grutter and Gratz (and I’ve read all of the concurring and dissenting opinions in both cases several times) were specifically focused on whether or not sufficient community interest exists and rises to such a level as to justify waiving constitutional protections to allow affirmative action.

The Court did not agree that there is sufficient community interest to justify admissions to any program based exclusively on race. The waiver of constitutional protections is quite specific in allowing that race may only be used as one of many factors. And, even at that, the Court specifically contemplated that such waivers might only be necessary for a finite period of time, another 25 years.

Neither Bollinger nor any of the other colleges offering support argued that affirmative action is or should be used to rectify past greivances. That has been totally rejected as a rationale.

#29 Comment By rory On January 21, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

its bizarre in that you bring it up here after the court has already found such a positive impact–in other words, we can assume that impact to be true and not need to show it again. so the ball IS still in david’s court to show why affirmative action is not worth it. as it stands, the assumption AS SHOWN BY THE COURT’S RULING is that it is a good thing.

#30 Comment By Parent ’12 On January 21, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

On the admissions side I want to point out that summary statistics are for the students that accept Williams and enroll. I don’t think we know, for example, how many students of a particular ethnic group were offered admission or any statistics about them. We also don’t know how many accepted students reject Williams offer.

I also want to add that I agree with Rory & others who have pointed out that so much of success at Williams and similar institutions, be it retention, graduation, or post-graduate success, are deeply tied to academic preparation and expectations before students are even taking SATs. I also suspect that there’s a value-factor, which comes from the family. I assume that African-American families that have sought out programs, like A Better Chance, have a different perspective about education and their children’s future than those who don’t.

#31 Comment By David On January 21, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

Sophmom has some interesting comments/questions in #7 above. Here they are with my thoughts.

I have mostly, been willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, believing that you are indeed, just obtuse, but now I’m not so sure.

I am certainly guilty of obtuseness. But do you really think that it is more than that? That I am evil? A devil-blogger sent from the depths of Hades to terrorize the Eph community? Never assume malice when simple obtuseness explains the behavior you see.

I really think (and especially after how you cherry-picked Sam’s comment above from a thread that is almost five years old) that you have purposely created an argument here, that has absolutely NOTHING to do with trying to make anything better for anyone, anywhere.

1) I have been trying very, very hard in this thread to be as non-obtuse, as open and non-confrontational as possible. Obviously, I have not been successful. What would help is if you could point me to someone writing anywhere with my point of view but with, in your opinion, a less objectionable approach.

[For the record, I think that the preferences given to URMs in admissions are surprisingly large, the costs (in terms of other applicants rejected) significant, the benefits unclear. I want to see an open, transparent discussion of the topic at Williams, as we saw with athletic admissions 7 years ago.]

Now, since there are millions of people who have similar misgivings about affirmative action as practiced by elite colleges, surely there is someone who writes about this topic in a sensitive way, someone who you want me to emulate.

But, if there is no such person, if no one questions affirmative action in a way that you would find acceptable, then I would suggest that the problem is not so much with the style of my speech as with the content.

2) I plead guilty to “purposely creat[ing] an argument here.” Recall our purpose: “EphBlog encourages, organizes and supports the Williams Conversation.” Part of that conversation concerns what Williams Admissions Policy actually is. (How many readers knew that the SAT gap was 200 points?) Part concerns what the Policy should be. (Reasonable Ephs will differ.)

Why didn’t you also pick out Joe Cruz’s amazing comment about the power of engaging students? Or Jeff’s beautiful bit of reasoning based on the point of view of a student?

I agree that this is great stuff! Indeed, one of the reasons that I linked to those threads is that they are of such high quality. But note that my post was already hundreds of words long. You think it should have been longer?

But, more importantly, you (or some other author) can bring out those great comments (or others) to the top of EphBlog. Quote them and put them on the front page. You have the power. We have a thousand readers a day who want to read the stuff you select. Instead of telling me what to include in my posts, why not include what you like in your posts? The more different voices on the main page, the better.

Both of which Sam, in the very same thread, referenced as bringing insight and balance to that conversation? I’ll tell you why. Because cherry-picking Sam’s, accomplished several of your goals; baiting Sam, upholding your own staid viewpoint, and getting more attention, all of which worked, and NONE of which serves to encourage great discussion or make things better for anyone.

Well, my point in quoting Sam was not to cherry-pick him. I am not even sure what that complaint means in this context. I can’t put it any better than ’10 does above.

[T]he arguments for and against public discussion of these issues are similar – both issues are of great relevance to the future of Williams, but are also very delicate and can be painful to discuss (and potentially insulting to current students). Dave’s argument is that if you’re willing to allow discussion of athletic tips, you should also be willing to allow discussion of diversity for the same reasons, even if your actual positions on the two issues are wildly different.

If it was OK for Sam to say X about athletes, why isn’t it OK for me to say X about other groups of students? Now, that argument may not be perfect, but it is not cherry-picking.

You argue that “NONE” of this “serves to encourage great discussion.” I couldn’t disagree more! We are having a great discussion here. Smart, open-minded Ephs with differing backgrounds and views, expressing their opinions in a polite and collegial fashion. And on the internet! What more can we as for?

Does anyone know another place on the web with a) such polite discussion and b) among people with sharply different views? I don’t. (But surely there must be.)

I also don’t think that “baiting” is a fair description of this thread (although I have been guilty of this sin in the past). I am having a discussion with Sam. I care what he thinks. I want to read what he writes. I am glad that he participates. And I am taking him seriously. I am challenging him to see if what he said 4 years ago is consistent with what he says today.

Quoting what an academic wrote 4 years ago is not “baiting.” It is the highest compliment! I wish that people remembered what I wrote 4 years ago.

#32 Comment By sophmom On January 21, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

*But I think Dave’s point is that …

*…Dave’s argument is that…

*…. I don’t believe DK was trying to bait you…

*…as an example of the position Dave is arguing against…

* …I assume that’s what Dave was referring to…

*…Dave is proposing…

*…Dave’s argument is…

10:

I have said it before, and I will say it again. It’s all well and good that you make such an effort to defend and support Dave, but those efforts seem to compose the entire gist of what you have to say. And I am referring specifically to your comments, not those of the other “10’s” who comment as well.

We all have occasions where we might agree with another blogger, or let their comment speak for us, but you are taking it too far. How about expressing your own thoughts? And letting Dave speak for himself? Especially when it comes down to apologies and justifications/excuses for whom and how he has baited and insulted?

#33 Comment By Parent ’12 On January 21, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

To continue my entry at #30-

As for a positive experience at Williams for non-white students, I would guess that those who live within a few hours car drive from home tend to be happier. The local community surrounding the campus has not appeared very diverse to me. But, I’m basically a tourist. Actually, most students regardless of their ethnicity who are not that far from home are probably happier. Williamstown is in a beautiful setting, but it lacks various amenities or services, including pizza delivery into the wee hours.

As for what Williams could do to improve success among non-white students, I would recommend increasing diversity of the faculty.

#34 Comment By sophmom On January 21, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

Comment #32 was made before I saw #31, which is a sort of attempt by Dave to speak for himself re the baiting and insulting.

And yes Dave, there are some worthwhile things being said here. But many of them have been said before. Many of them are being repeated out of the patience and goodwill of those saying them. And it does not excuse the fact that you have risked the goodwill of others in order to get the conversation going.

I am still too pissed off to go into it further, so enough. For those of you saying the worthwhile things, I am sorry for the distraction of the rant. I am embarrassed for how it must look, especially since you can’t know the more private particulars of the reasons for my anger.

#35 Comment By ’10 On January 21, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

sophmom: I’ve posted on a lot of subjects. As I said yesterday, I am most of those “other ’10’s”. Even in this thread, I think I’ve said a few substantive things that don’t directly involve Dave’s comments (which, no offense, is more than you have done).

But on issues (like this one) where I don’t have a strong pre-existing position, I mostly prefer to see how the arguments play out among intelligent people who do have strong opinions. To that extent, I’m interested in useful discussion, and that discussion tends to derail when people misunderstand each other’s points and start arguing past each other. So as someone with natural sympathies to Dave’s quantitative style of argument (if not necessarily with his specific ideas), I’d like to think that trying to clarify his points is occasionally useful for the broader discussion.

#36 Comment By mia On January 21, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

Um. Wow. I read Ephblog, but usually do not bother to read the comments. I didn’t realize that things get as heated as they do on this thread. I thought that wso was bad, but perhaps it is worse here because people can comment anonymously.

How are David and sophmom blogging together on the same site when they are so vitriolic to each other? Initially, i thought that it’s interesting to have such varying opinions on one site, but with people saying things like, “..I do not like to discuss anything with you,”… wow.

Also, to be completely non-constructive, sophmom is kind of annoying.

#37 Comment By sophmom On January 21, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

10 @35:

There are very specific reasons why conversations on EB get derailed. And those reasons have less to do with “misunderstandings” and more to do with purposeful baiting and obtuseness. And there is a history of it.

So, since you have no qualms about telling me that my attempts to point this out lack substance, then I will take your tack of invoking the arguments of others, specifically Professor Crane, and Rory, who have diplomatically explained all of this better than I.

Why don’t you at least give them the benefit of the doubt? Supporting Dave is fine. God knows he probably appreciates it. But quit chastising those who criticize him, and instead offer up a bit more of your own “substantive” argument in it’s place.

#38 Comment By sophmom On January 21, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

@36

Mia,

Dave and I aren’t usually (this) vitriolic to each other, but it’s amazing what can happen in one thread.

And really, I had been questioning the value of my contributions to the site, so it’s especially nice to have the candid, well thought out opinion of someone with a real history on EB. Thanks a million.

#39 Comment By Kirsten On January 21, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

Sophmom, you are one of the shining stars of Ephblog. If it weren’t for you, I might have given up reading it by now.

I am thoroughly and completely tired of David’s baiting and trolling and attempts to stir up controversy any way possible. For his posts (and comments), I tend to follow the general Internet rule: don’t feed the troll.

#40 Comment By JG On January 21, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

SM – Please know that your contributions are valuable. You are one of the reasons I still occasionally visit EB and even (shock) comment. Blogs are hard. Blogs dominated by their founders are harder. Teh interwebs are a messy place, and I commend you on being the only regularly commenting woman blogger on EB – the rest of us have all be scared away.

#41 Comment By ’10 On January 21, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

sophmom: I didn’t say that your comments lacked substance, just that you hadn’t made any substantive comments in this thread that don’t directly concern things that Dave has said. In other words, you accused me of doing but defending DK, which I don’t think is entirely fair (see #25 and the last bit of #23), while you’ve done nothing in this thread but attack him (I will grant that your attacks do have substance).

I do give Rory, Prof. Crane, etc. the benefit of the doubt – I enjoy reading their posts (and yours, generally), and have never thought that they had anything other than the best of intentions. Occasionally I disagree with them, or think that their arguments don’t address the meat of the current issue (i.e. the distinction between arguing over admissions policy, as they seemed to be doing, versus arguing over whether we should discuss admissions policy, which is how I interpreted what you and DK were doing), and I try to point that out. But I agree with you that too much meta-discussion is generally a bad thing, so I’ll try to refrain from it in the future, as I think I more or less have in the past, excepting the past couple days.

#42 Comment By sophmom On January 22, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

@39 and 40:

Thank you…for the kind words and wise advice.

:-)

#43 Comment By winteriscold On January 23, 2009 @ 1:15 am

Oh David. For a Williams alum you sure lack ingenuity and motivation. If you are so invested in finding out what the Admission Office does, then why don’t you stop by the office for an information session? Why don’t you contact one of the Admission Officers? A phone call perhaps? An e-mail? A letter?

For someone who spends so much of his time speculating over what the Admission Office does on campus, you sure are very lazy at finding out the truth.

Put your best foot forward. People who see problems in their environment DO something about it. Its not as if you’re far away. Aren’t you teaching a Winter Study?

#44 Comment By David On January 24, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

I already know what the Admissions Office does. I was surprised at the 200 point difference, but the Admissions Office would never reveal that data anyway.

#45 Comment By Stan On January 25, 2009 @ 2:41 am

Has anyone read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers? In discussing elite college admissions he says that it would be more fair to establish a cutoff point (can you handle the work or not, are you within the realm of being a possible candidate) and admit people via lottery. This seems more fair and less arbitrary than have a bunch of people in admissions read through essays. Or, perhaps go the way of the IIT system in India and admit people solely on standardized test results.

#46 Comment By eph ’07 On January 26, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

Stan, from the perspective of most applicants awaiting decisions, it IS a lottery! After a certain point of individual qualification and institutional selectivity, it really is impossible to predict. Since the current system is already somewhat random for applicants, and serves institutional purposes, I’m not sure why we would want to slightly increase the unpredictability and totally lose the class design for the sake of making it “more fair and less arbitrary.”

#47 Comment By ncram65 On January 29, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

I would recommend “Race and Class Matters at an Elite College” to anyone interested in the benefits of diversity in education. I am quite certain that the author, an Amherst College psych professor, would be disappointed to see that her work had been used in this discussion only to highlight SAT differentials. There is so much more to it than that.