This post continues our month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction address.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjUCCuFpfCs&start=556

For example, what it means for Williams to provide a public good has changed dramatically over time. In the generations following the Haystack Movement, Williams became increasingly a place for affluent northeastern gentlemen to mature to adulthood far from what were thought to be the dissolute influences of the big cities. (In fact, these young gentlemen brought much dissolution with them!) This was at a time when society was thought to be advanced most efficiently by the preparation for leadership of a white, male, Protestant elite. Many of our graduates went on to do great things for the country and the world, but the public aspect of the College’s mission during that time now seems muted. The greatest, and most beneficial, change at Williams has been its opening to the wider world, which began in the 1960s and continued in the decades since with the growing gender, ethnic, cultural, national, religious, and economic diversity of the College community. We now recognize that the future leaders of society will come from all its many parts, and that the highest manifestation of the public good we provide is to be a college for all of the United States, and of the world. One year ago, I was drawn here because I saw this aspiration at the very core of Williams, and in the years to come I assure you that our commitment will only grow.

DK:

I love Adam Falk! The single most important change that I would make at Williams is to increase the percentage of international students from 6% to 25% within the next 10 years, and then, perhaps, even higher. Although Falk makes no explicit promises about admissions here, or elsewhere, in his speech, it would be hard for him to follow through in a meaningful way on these commitments without radically changes in Williams admissions policies.

Consider the possibilities for making Williams ” a college for all of the United States, and of the world.”

  • Change the student population to become more international. This is what I want Falk to do. This is what I predict he will do.
  • Keep the student population overwhelmingly American, but somehow enroll more students who are interested in the wider world.  First, this is hard to do. How do you predict which 18 year olds are global and which are not? And it only becomes harder once Williams gets a reputation for providing such admissions preferences since every applicant will emphasize the “global” aspects of his interests. The college counselors at Choate are experts in massaging applicants/applications. Second, an interest in the wider world is very hard to disentangle from family income. The richer you are, the more likely you are to have traveled, studied abroad, learned another language and so on.
  • Keep the student body 94% US, but provide further study abroad opportunities and/or require such experiences. First, this could be very expensive. Williams at Oxford is an amazing program and should be made larger to accommodate student demand, but it is costly, almost certainly too costly to replicate elsewhere. Second, Williams already provides a wealth of study abroad opportunities. The 55% of students who decline to study abroad now would hardly be swayed by better programs. Third, requiring a junior year abroad (or even a single semester) is unworkable for all sorts of reasons (JAs, two sport athletes, et cetera) and completely antithetical to the broader Williams ethos of student freedom.

Conclusion: Either Falk used his Induction Address — the single most important speech he will give at Williams — as an occasion for mouthing inconsequential platitudes or he means what he says. I predict it is the latter. Within five years, Williams will have significantly more international students than any NESCAC school. Within ten years, we will be a more global college than any elite school in the US. You read it at EphBlog first.

KT:

Geez Dave.   This is only our fourth date,   and you almost fell asleep at the Opera on the first one.   I don’t normally accept false dichotomies from guys that fall asleep at the Opera;  please keep your conclusions over there.

I believe Falk means what he says.  What I’m less clear on– what it would mean,  substantively,  to be “a more global school.”  Neither am I– and you know where I of all people stand here (about 100 meters from the Tower of your name, actually) — I’m not quite so convinced,  that there’s a clear path here for Williams,  in the middle of,  say,  satellite campuses being purchased as if they were commodity stocks,  and for-profit campuses springing up in the middle of deserts.

But that’s the rough background Williams is operating in– go read Foreign Policy’s articles on the new age of competing global cities,  I guess,   if you really want to be perplexed about where we and the world are going.

Let’s do some brief,  close-ish reading:

[Kane:] Second, an interest in the wider world is very hard to disentangle from family income. The richer you are, the more likely you are to have traveled, studied abroad, learned another language and so on.

Really?  Because I know a lot of 14-years olds from Kentucky who’ve lived in Central America and speak Spanish– and I’m speaking of the non-naturalized US citizens.  I think you’re making a pet point and it’s likely distracting– but I think you’re also talking about the US of the 1980s,  1990s,  2000s,  and not 2010s and 2020s;    and not the larger world.

[Falk:] We now recognize that the future leaders of society will come from all its many parts, and that the highest manifestation of the public good we provide is to be a college for all of the United States, and of the world. One year ago, I was drawn here because I saw this aspiration at the very core of Williams, and in the years to come I assure you that our commitment will only grow.

Here,  I — can only draw some emphasis,  and ask that we at least pay attention to phrasing such as ‘a college for all of the United States,  and of the world,’  asking ourselves what that means or could mean.  My crystal ball,  unlike David’s,  is showing me only fog when I ask for detail– I don’t think anything’s set in stone,  and I doubt President Falk is entering,  with a set idea of policy initiatives.

David also writes:

Consider the possibilities…  [Either]

(1) Dramatically increase international students’ presence

[or]
(2) Increase students with [so-called] “international interests” (but it’s hard)
[or]
(3) Keep the same Student Body,  but increase international programs,   etc… (but it’s hard and expensive because WPOX is expensive)

This is David being silly again.   Obviously– well,  first off,  David’s being a little silly as well,  in positing,  in the midst of a changing world,  a fixed pool of students “with international interests” and “without international interests.
But equally,  one could,  potentially attempt a strategy of pursing all three strategies and learning what works in the future we’re building. Obviously– just for instance– the costs involved in a heavyweight program such as Williams-Oxford,    and the models behind it– are not the only options.   And I don’t necessarily see the value of bringing a lot of international students to Williams,  if the “US” students at Williams,  don’t have much access to the educational systems of Latin America,  of Europe,  of China and India.

David also knows that I have my own ideas,  which I’ve been discussing here and there,  — we might throw around some ideas in the comments.   But my general point is that I don’t see a clear program or series of programmatic steps to be taken– I see a general situation,  whose nature and opportunities need to be explored,   and in response to which we can imagine and create new initiatives.

Perhaps a much better place to have begun this would have been– what’s the nature of that situation?  Why are we talking about ‘a college for all of the United States, and of the world’ at all?

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