Faculty ignorance is shockingly common at Williams. Consider this comment from spectraltalent, an anonymous member of the faculty. Here, he (?) is attributing various views to me and then summarizing those views as “woefully myopic, willfully ignorant, and completely wrong.” Allow me to thank spectraltalent for taking the time to comment by educating him about the realities of Williams.

He [David] seems to think that there should be a very limited number of criteria for admission, with GPA and standardized test scores (especially the former) being by far the most important criteria.

This is, more or less, how the admissions process works at Williams. If you have a problem with it, accuse Dick Nesbitt of being “woefully myopic.” Leave me out of it. Clarifications:

1) Roughly speaking, GPA (adjusted for course selection and high school quality) counts about as much as standardized test scores (SAT, achievement tests, APs). Combined (and throw in some evaluations of essays and recommendations), they create your academic rating (AR), the single number that drives 75% of the Williams admissions process. Even those applicants (mainly African American or Hispanic, but also legacies and local residents) who benefit from some sort of affirmative action are still evaluated in the basis of their AR. For example, Williams accepts, more or less, the top 150 or so African-American applicants as ranked by their AR. Even athletic admits (depending on team and talent) need to meet certain AR standards.

2) I think that the Williams admissions process does a wonderful job of creating AR. The system they use is, for most purposes, identical to the one used by almost all other elite schools.

He thinks that some URM gain admission without being as exceptional as in these areas as, for example, many Asian Americans and international students who do not get in (which seems to be empirically true).

Well, duh. That is how affirmative action works. If you are a random Asian-American applicant with an AR of 3, you will be rejected. African-American applicants with AR 3 are (almost always?) accepted. This will be true even if the two students in question go to the same high school and have parents with the same educational background and family income.

He thinks that this is inherently unfair and represents a quota system similar to the type employed against Jews in decades past.

There are two conceptually distinct issues: international admissions and affirmative action for URM/legacies/locals. I think that the quota for international students is “unfair” but I would not use that term to describe other affirmative action at Williams. My number one priority is to remove the international quota. If Williams did that, I wouldn’t really care what happened with affirmative action. My second priority is to have an honest discussion of affirmative action policy at Williams similar to the discussion that Morty led about athletic admissions.

He thinks that most “ethnic studies” classes and scholarly endeavors are at worst a scam and at best treated with less scholarly scrutiny than other academic areas.

Huh? I have written several books worth of material at EphBlog but have almost never commented on these issues. In fact, I have criticized gut science courses at Williams ten times more often than I have “ethnic studies.” I think that spectraltalent is attributing standard “conservative” views to me even though I am anything but a standard conservative.

He thinks that there is a genetic basis to differences in IQ and that IQ is essentially the best measure of the kind of intelligence he finds valuable.

Not believing that “there is a genetic basis to differences in IQ” is the scientific equivalent of thinking that the sun revolves around the Earth. I do not think that, for purposes of Williams admissions, that we should only give IQ tests. Conscientious performance in your high school classes matters too. I think that the academic rating system currently used by the Williams Admissions Office is excellent.

He thus takes particular relish in events, numbers, etc. that appear to confirm his opinions (He Who Cannot Presently Be Named, lower test scores for URM, etc.).

Indeed! This is called “being a scientist.” When a fact confirms my hypotheses, I report it. What do you do? (And when facts refute my hypotheses, I report them too. Major example there is the weird (to me!) data associated with early decision. Summary: I thought that applying ED to Williams was a significant advantage but the data does not seem to support that claim.)

He takes great joy in pissing people off when he thinks that he is in the right.

Guilty as charged! Back in the day, we called this speaking truth to power. What do they call it now?

Again, this post probably comes off as too critical of spectraltalent. I appreciate his many thoughtful comments at EphBlog. But, to the extent that he thinks my descriptions of the reality of admissions at Williams is “willfully ignorant and completely wrong,” he needs to have a heart-to-heart with someone in admissions. Most of the things that get me in trouble at EphBlog are simple factual descriptions of the policies of Williams and their inevitable results. Many faculty would prefer that these policies and their results be kept secret, at least from current students.

Eppur si muove!

UPDATE: Name removed by request.

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