Some readers took me to task for describing the College’s timing of the end of international need-blind admissions as “sleazy.” Well, don’t just ask me. Ask some students:

Honestly, WTF? Whether revoking need-blind was necessary or not, it seems like Bill Wagner picked the shadiest possible way to implement this.

Wait…they seriously already did it?

“begin to admit international students somewhat differently than we have in recent years, beginning with the class entering this fall.” -Bill Wagner, Feb. 16 2010

Holy shit. I missed that entirely. I feel absolutely violated.

Indeed. Here is what the College still says on its admissions webpage:

International students follow essentially the same procedures as all other students in applying for admission to Williams. No special admission form is required. A candidate’s cultural background and international experiences are highlighted positively in the selection process, as Williams continues its historic commitment to cultural diversity on campus. Williams is committed to a need-blind admission policy toward all applicants and will meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students, both domestic and international.

It is not a problem for Williams to delay updating its webpage if any changes will only apply to the class of 2015, i.e., those students applying next fall. The sleazy aspect is that Williams has changed this policy retroactively, applying it to members of the class of 2014, applicants who applied, at least partially, on a promise from Williams that their applications would be treated need-blind.

Breaking promises is sleazy and shady. If Williams is (correctly!) holding off on the change in loans to the class of 2015, why isn’t it doing the same on the change to international need-blind admissions?

The Record reports:

Peter Just, professor of anthropology, articulated the unfortunate influence the new policy has on community standards. “The reason I think it’s regrettable is that if we have two values that we have felt are most important over the last 20 years, they have been diversity and inclusiveness,” Just said. “It’s a terrible shame that we feel it’s necessary to make these specific reductions because they most directly affect both.”

Erdem Sahin ’11, an international student from Turkey, echoed the policy’s consequences for diversity. “I understand that measures need to be taken against this financial situation, but at the same time, I think Williams will lose, too, if international students on financial aid are denied access to this education,” Sahin said. “I think the international student body itself is more diverse now when more socioeconomic backgrounds are being represented.”

However, several international students like Sahin have countered that international students are less likely to apply to Williams if the Office of Admission drops need-blindness. “If I’m an international student who needs some form of financial aid, Williams will probably not be my first choice, whereas I know that my application will not be evaluated in terms of the need I have somewhere else,” Sahin said.
In a meeting last Friday, International Club members also talked through the diversity international students lend the campus. At the meeting, Bangkok native Thammika Songkaeo ’11 said that if the College considers wealthier students more seriously, “the international community becomes a prep school environment.”

In addition, Just emphasized how integral international students are to the measure of campus diversity. “It’s a genuine kind of diversity they’re bringing,” Just said, explaining that internationals are not bringing diversity only as a group, but also within themselves, with a range of ethnic, national, socioeconomic, linguistic and other backgrounds.

Similarly, Sahin talked about the unique way international students bring global themes to life. “We study cultures here; we study religions here; we study languages here,” he said. “International students are living representatives of the stuff that we study.”

Since finding out that the administration was seriously considering need-aware admission for international students, the International Club has worked to coordinate an organized response. Before Wagner sent Tuesday’s e-mail, the club was planning to meet with trustees to gain more official information and to send letters to senior staff and trustees conveying their objections to the policy, said James Mathenge ’12, co-chair of the International Club.

However, since Wagner confirmed that the College is adopting need-sensitivity, the International Club has not yet had time to regroup. Mathenge noted that the club will no longer request an official meeting and is reconsidering sending letters. “We feel that the matter is already pretty much decided,” Mathenge said. “We appreciate that the College officially communicated it today,” he added, since much of the frustration communicated at Friday’s International Club meeting stemmed from a lack of a clear institutional message about the policy’s likelihood and reasoning.

Read the whole article, which is extremely well done.

The best strategy for students interested in fighting this change is to focus, for now, on stopping its application to the class of 2104. This is, obviously, sleazy and tough for anyone to defend. (Do any readers defend it.) Once you stop if for that class, you have another 12 months to fight it. Details on how to do so available upon request.

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