The following is a conversation between myself and an “anonymous upperclassman.” (AU) I’ll post more as we continue the back-and-forth. This was half-inspired by tonight’s talk from Katie Kent.

UPDATE with more info: This is a conversation I’ve been meaning to post for a while now. I posted part 1 to coincide with Kent’s talk about (Re)claiming Williams scheduled for tonight, but the content has nothing to do with anything she said. This is its own piece.

AU: I feel the central issues underlying the lack of inclusivity at Williams are size and demographics. By size, I am referring to Williams’s significantly smaller enrollment relative to other schools. by demographics I am referring to different social groups (minority, sports, etc.) on campus. It is the fact that, and the way in which, these two groups interact that I feel produces the lack of ‘inclusivity’ at Williams. Excuse me, the fact that those groups are *forced*, in a way, to interact.

WS: Does that mean that you think we could solve some of the issues you see in inclusively by making Williams bigger? How would that help?

AU: No, I don’t feel making Williams bigger would increase inclusivity. By ‘inclusively’, I am referring to a measure of how much, and how profoundly, different racial and socioeconomic groups interact. And I think, in order for those groups to interact, there must be a catalyst. Unfortunately, Williams is, and has always been, a small, elite school.

WS: Well now, hold on. Williams’s size and elite status do not preclude your “catalyst.” In fact, I would guess that having a more selectively picked student body would increase the potential for interaction. But what are these two groups that you refer to above?

AU: I am referring to the white, upper middle class group that typifies the majority of Williams students vis-a-vis those students from underrepresented/’special interest’ groups.

WS: So, in your view, there is a very homogeneous majority and a diverse minority?

AU: Most certainly not. Rather, it is the size of the majority, and the class strata of American society from which most of them come, that makes them a ‘group.’ In my experience, many minorities do not share the backgrounds of the majority group. Although, I am not precluding the fact that some do indeed share much in common with the majority group. That is why the issue is less racial and more class-based to me. At Williams, however, the racial undertones are highlighted to a much greater degree.

WS: Why?

AU: Because Williams tends to ‘bundle’ its socioeconomic diversity with its racial diversity.

WS: You’re saying that admissions prefers to kill two underrepresented groups with one stone? (Though I don’t like that particular phrasing.)

AU: I believe so, yes. I think people must realize that Williams remains, in essence, a school that tailors to white, upper class society.

WS: In what specific ways?

AU: Because there are only 500 students per incoming class,
I believe admissions feels they have to ‘kill two birds with one stone.’

WS: Well, wait. You’re conflating two separate issues.

AU: You’re correct. I was going to mention that; I think we’re branching out a little far. I’ll try to stay on point.

WS: Ok, I agree that Williams’s admissions policies make it very difficult for working class whites. We know that from SAT statistics. But, I don’t understand how Williams tailors to a particular society.

AU: Well, let me answer that this way. What type of student do you think is going to have 800 board scores? 4.3 averages? What type of student attends the Exeters and Andovers at which Williams recruits? I believe the admissions criteria preclude poorer students in general.

WS: Well, here’s a possible counter to that. We know that income is commiserate with education (at least to the Ph.D. level), and that education is probably correlated with intelligence. Might it be that some of this gap stems from a hidden variable of parental intelligence? I’m not saying that’s everything, but it might account for part.

AU: I don’t think income is commiserate with education. I know many students who are wealthy, but not particularly bright.

WS: http://soc101.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/education-pays-income-by-education-level-2009-update/

Knowing exceptions doesn’t disprove a rule.

AU: I think the problem with that assumption is you are assuming every wealthy student must be smart, or at least smarter in relation to a poorer student. So if the rule doesn’t hold for everyone, it’s not applicable in my view.

WS: No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that Williams admits lots of smart kids because wealth is a statistical indicator that you will do well on the SAT and more. It’s not because Williams loves people for having money. We’re need-blind in admissions, even internationally. It sounds like you’re saying that Williams displays a preference for a certain kind of “majority” student, and then flavors the class with as many multi-category minorities as possible to make the statistics work.

To be continued…..

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