Like all academic institutions, Williams is currently reclassifying the race/ethnicity of its students, faculty and staff. I can’t find any good Williams links on the topic, but here (pdf) is background from Harvard and an overview from the Feds. Highlight is that Ephs will now be able to (easily) classify themselves as belonging to multiple racial groups. Previous posts on this topic here and here. Comments:

1) I am still hazy on the exact mechanism by which Williams manages to provide a racial classification for every student. Background reading here. If I were Williams, I would move toward the approach that Amherst and other elite schools use, allowing for students to refuse to classify themselves. (Amherst classifies 360 students as “Race/ethnicity unknown.” Williams has zero students in that category. Which report do you believe?)

2) The 2009 Common Data Set for Amherst (in what I think is a new addition) reports (pdf):

42 of these 113 “race/ethnicity unknown” identified as multiracial [in the freshmen class]. Because it is not possible to report students who identify with more than one race, and because Amherst is unwilling to use racial trumping rules, these 42 students of color are added to the “unknown” category.

Interesting! I think that Williams would have classified those 42 students as belonging to whichever racial/ethnic category Williams viewed as most desirable. So, a student who checked both Asian and African-American would be classified by Williams as African-American. Williams would then classify the remaining 71 students — those who declined to provide a race — as white. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

3) Do you prefer the Williams policy or the Amherst policy?

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