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Pell Grant, 2

Whitney Wilson ’90 points out this Washington Post article (and chart) about the rise in the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at elite schools like Williams. For background information on this topic, read this, this and our ten (!) part series from 2014. Let’s spend a week on this topic. Today is Day 2.

In little more than a dozen years, Princeton University tripled the share of freshmen who qualify for federal Pell Grants to 22 percent this fall. The grants, targeting students from low-to-moderate-income families with significant financial need, are a key indicator of economic diversity. The Ivy League school’s transformation reflects mounting pressure on top colleges, public and private, to provide more opportunity to communities where poverty is common and college degrees scarce.

If Rob Anderson were a reporter, as opposed to a stenographer, he would ask a simple question: What is the family income of the 1,000th poorest student at Princeton and how has that changed over time? (Of course, we really want to see how the whole distribution changes, but a simple number like this would tell basic story.) In the Williams context:

In 1998, the 426th poorest family at Williams had a family income of $63,791. What is the family income of the 426th poorest family at Williams today? How has that number changed over the last two decades?

Pell Grants are only a rough proxy for (part of) what we really care about: economic diversity. But it is a proxy that Williams (and Princeton) don’t have to use because they know the family income of all the students (more than 50% of the campus) who requests financial aid. The fact that they don’t tell us these much more meaningful numbers makes me deeply suspicious.

The grants are an imperfect measure of diversity. Researchers say the Pell-eligible share of freshmen at some top schools rose at least a few percentage points in recent years because Congress expanded the maximum grant and because incomes fell during the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009.

In other words, a college might have changed nothing about its recruiting in that time and still looked a bit better. But it is clear the Pell share has become an influential metric in the Ivy League and beyond.

Exactly right. Moreover, Anderson is (purposely?) underplaying the strength of this complaint. (And his failure to mention Raj Chetty by name is an indication of amateurism, perhaps caused by Chetty’s close connection to the New York Times. Key details (pdf):

At Ivy-Plus colleges, the fraction of students receiving Pell grants increased from 12.1% to 16.8% between 2000-2011, an increase that has been interpreted as evidence of growth in low-income access at these colleges. In Online Appendix F, we show that the apparent discrepancy between trends in Pell shares and our percentile-based statistics, which show little or no change in low-income access, is driven by two factors. First, Congress raised the income eligibility threshold for Pell Grants significantly between 2000 and 2011, mechanically increasing the share of families that qualified for Pell grants. Second, as noted above, incomes fell sharply during the 2000s at the bottom of the distribution, further increasing the number of families whose incomes placed them below the Pell eligibility threshold. We estimate that the changes in eligibility rules mechanically increased Pell shares at Ivy-Plus colleges by approximately 2.9 pp from 2000-2011, while the decline in real incomes increased Pell shares by approximately 2.5 pp (Online Appendix Figure IX). Together, these changes fully account for the observed increase in Pell shares. Accounting for these factors, the Pell data imply that there was no significant change in the parental income distribution of students at Ivy-Plus colleges between 2000-201.

There is no evidence that socio-economic diversity increased at places like Princeton between 2000 and 2011, despite the increase in the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. A competent reporter would have mentioned this fact and/or sought a quote from Chetty or one of his co-authors. The Princeton PR Department, of course, prefers the story as currently published.

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Pell Grant, 1

Whitney Wilson ’90 points out this Washington Post article (and chart) about the rise in the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at elite schools like Williams. For background information on this topic, read this, this and our ten (!) part series from 2014. Let’s spend a week on this topic. Today is Day 1.

The elite protect each other, which is the best way to understand how Washington Post reporter Nick Anderson ends up providing such a tongue-bath to Princeton. Start with the title:

How an Ivy got less preppy: Princeton draws surge of students from modest means

The term “preppy” comes, obviously, from the “prep” schools that have been feeding students to Princeton (and Williams) for generations. With that title, you would expect some evidence, or even a discussion, about whether (or not!) there are, in truth, fewer prep schools students at elite colleges. Surprise! There is no discussion. As best we know, there are as many students from prep schools like Andover, Exeter and Groton today as there were 50 years ago.

Consider Amherst: 34% (pdf) are from “private” schools in the class of 2020, compared to 38% (pdf) in the class of 2003. Now, you might argue that a 4% decrease is a meaningful change. Maybe. But, a decade ago, it was 35% (pdf) for the class of 2010, so whatever “progress” has been made stopped cold more than a decade ago. I bet that the (lack of) trends at Princeton (and Williams) have been similar. There is no evidence of elite colleges have become less “preppy” over the last decade.

There is, however, an increased reliance on Pell Grants to measure economic diversity.

Pell Grants, worth up to $5,920 apiece this year, are the foundation of need-based financial aid. They are awarded through a formula that assesses family size, assets, income and other factors. Most go to students whose families make less than $50,000 a year, a range that spans deep poverty to moderate income.

We have discussed before that Pell Grants are an imperfect proxy. Recall that international students are not eligible. A school with 50% of its students from very poor Mexican or Brazilian or Ukranian families would not do well because those student aren’t counted in this methodology. More details to come tomorrow. There can be little doubt, however, that going forward, Pell Grants will be important.

As soon as a metric becomes important, it starts to be gamed:

They even began checking family finances before deciding whom to admit. The point was not to exclude those in need but, possibly, to boost their chances.

It used to be that Princeton accepted student X (with family income of $60,000) over student Y (with family income of $50,000, and therefore Pell-eligible) if X had better test scores, grades, recommendation letters and so on. With this new policy, that changes. If Princeton thinks that you will be awarded a Pell, you now have a (large?) advantage over applicants with, for all practical purposes, the same socio-economic standing. What should smart applicants do?

U-Penn.’s dean of admissions, Eric Furda, said the university, with more than 10,000 undergraduates, also produces every year a high number of graduates who were Pell grant recipients. But he acknowledged that the school wants to have a higher freshman Pell share than its rate of 13 percent in 2016 and 14 percent in 2015, and is exploring how to do that.

“If this is going to be the measure,” Furda said, “then just what we’ve been doing for 10 years is not going to necessarily be enough.”

Indeed. Advice to applicants: Do whatever you can to convince Furda (and Princeton and Williams and . . .) that you will be eligible for a Pell Grant.

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New bookstore complex “Rather pleasant …” says Peter Britton ’56

spring street bookstore… photo by Peter Britton ’56

“Rather pleasant, airy, two floors, good location. You might even like it. Here for the Hamilton game.” writes Peter in a brief note.

I stand by my view of the edifice and the college take-over of Spring Street. Now with a new Williams Inn approximately where the picnic table is, the transformation to a mall (if they add a roof up to the Congo Church intersection) is complete!

Will Lin-Manuel Miranda be starting for Hamilton?

My post on the new complex from June 13, 2017.

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Williams Admissions and Academic Standards v The Ivies?

210x140-penn-logo-stripped

 

Recent statements in the popular press by a UofP alum* may call Ivy standards into question.

*  See comment 8

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Turnover in Admissions

How much staff turnover is there in Williams Admissions? Three years ago, we had these 11 folks. Today, we have these 12. Only four of the 12 current admissions staff were at Williams three years ago: Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’03 (who was then deputy director of admissions), Director of Admission Dick Nesbitt ’74, Deputy Director of Admission Sulgi Lim ’06 (obviously the leading likely successor to Nesbitt) and Associate Director Barbara Robertson. Comments:

1) Normal turnover or cause for concern? I see this as normal turnover, largely consistent with the past practices of Admissions and similar to what we see at other schools. We can divide staff into two categories: permanent and temporary. The permanent staff run Admissions, determine policy and maintain institutional knowledge. The temporary staff is very young, often in their first job and/or just a year or two removed from their undergraduate years, mostly at Williams. Temporary staff understand that the position is generally held for just two or so years.

2) The main purpose of temporary staff is to help with recruitment. If you want to enroll more students of type X, then it helps (most people think) to have people of type X doing the recruiting. Temporary staff are also often expected to travel more and/or show the flag at less important events.

As we have explained, Williams Admissions, like all elite admissions, is a well-tested, thorough process that does not depend very much on the people reading your recommendations letters. Once the key policies are set, you could replace the current set of readers with an entirely new set and still get 95%+ the same results. And that is OK! I would not want a process that was overly affected by the whims of the specific people who happen to work in admissions this year.

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How to Write a Chance Request at College Confidential

A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges. Please read How Admissions Works at Williams.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Background information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), your subject test scores and AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. Even if your high school does not officially rank students, you must have a rough sense of where you stand (#2, top 5, top 10%, whatever). Tell us where the students at about your rank in the previous year’s class went to college.

The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

If all you do is just a big copy/paste of all sorts of blather (recent examples here and here) — the exact same 1,000 words that you might paste into other discussion boards, don’t be surprised if the only feedback you get is generic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants. It is also unclear whether or not checking the two boxes or declining to check any box matters. So, for example, if you have one white and one African-American parent, you are much better off checking only the African-American box.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

The College loves to brag about two categories of students: Pell Grant recipients and “first generation” students, defined as those for whom neither parent has a four year BA and who require financial aid. If you can show the College evidence that you (will) belong in either category, your chances improve.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.

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A more economically diverse student body?

Interesting article in today’s Washington Post, entitled Pell Grant Shares at Top-Ranked Colleges: a sortable chart, with a number of Williams connections.   The data is based on kids who were freshman in 2015, so its a little dated, but it reports that 22% of Williams freshman in 2015 were eligible for Pell Grants from the Federal government.  This number was up from 21% in 2010.  According to the article, Williams is one of 39 schools amongst the top 100 national universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges (according to the US News and World Report rankings) which has a freshman class with at least 20% Pell Grant eligible students.

Two former Williams faculty members are quoted in the article, representing schools with (relatively) high and low numbers of Pell Grant eligible students.  According to the article, Vassar College adopted a need-blind admissions policy in 2007 and has seen its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students jump from 12% to 23%, without any decline in the academic credentials of its incoming students:

Catharine Hill [Williams Class of 1976 1977 and former provost of Williams], president of Vassar from 2006 to 2016, said the school’s record shows it is possible to broaden the demographic base of a selective college — drawing more students from low- and moderate-income families — without compromising standards. “In most cases, if you wanted to do more, you could do more,” Hill said. “All we had to do was go looking for kids. Our academic credentials actually went up.”

On the other hand, Washington and Lee University has gone in the other direction, with its percentage of Pell Grant eligible students dropping from 11% to 6% between 2010 and 2015.  Washington and Lee wants to reverse this trend, though, at least according to its new President:

Will Dudley [Williams Class of 1989 and also a former provost of Williams], who this year became president of the private Virginia liberal arts school, said the share rose to 11 percent this fall and he wants to lift it further. Dudley said he raised the issue of socioeconomic diversity at Washington and Lee when he was interviewing for the job. Previously, he was provost at Williams College, which had a far higher Pell share in 2015 — 22 percent. “If they didn’t want to make progress, they wouldn’t have hired me,” Dudley said.

The entire article and the underlying data is interesting.  No one seems to to question that the  percentage of Pell Grant eligible students is a good proxy for socio-economic diversity.  I wonder if there are different metrics to try to measure the same thing.

Should Williams make additional efforts to recruit and admit more students who are eligible for Pell Grants?

 

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Family Days 2017, OCTOBER 26 – 29

Dear Students,

I hope this note finds you well.  As you may know, Family Days begins this Thursday evening with a wonderful Davis Center talk by Dr. Monique Morris.

If your own family plans to visit this weekend, we greatly look forward to having them here at Williams and expect it will be a great opportunity for them to gain a better sense of your own undergraduate experience.

And if your parents won’t be attending, please know that you’re in good company with the vast majority of your fellow students. While many families enjoy family days, a great many more don’t attend. For some, the time and expense to travel to Williamstown are too great. (And let’s face it: though Williams is a beautiful place, it’s far away from where most people live!) For others, there are other points in their students four years at Williams—from a special sports event or musical performance to Commencement—when a visit make more sense.

In any case, it’s a great weekend packed with lots of things to do, with family members or just with fellow students. View the entire weekend program here and enjoy!

All best,
Dean Sandstrom

Marlene J. Sandstrom
Dean of the College and Hales Professor of Psychology
Williams College
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Williams Inn Approved

inn

From iBerkshires:

At long last, the new Williams Inn is “shovel ready.”

On Thursday night, Williams College received the final regulatory approval it needed to build a 64-room, 60,000-square foot inn at the bottom of Spring Street to replace the current 100-room inn at the Field Park rotary at the junction of Routes 2 and 7.

I was talking to an administration official a few years ago about this project. He claimed that the reason it was needed as that “Spring Street was dying.” That was (and is) absurd. Spring Street has never been more vibrant. And, to the extent that it is “dying,” that the small merchants who used to sell school supplies and newspapers are disappearing, it is because Williams has been raising their rents for years.

The real reason for the Williams Inn is that it will be great for rich people. (Not that there is anything wrong with rich people!) If you were, for example, a trustee, the lodging situation at Williams has been problematic for 30+ years. The old Williams Inn is decrepit, probably the worst hotel that you have ever stayed at. The Orchard is adequate but it is too far away from campus. You usually bring your spouse for trustee meetings, but you travel in one car. Then, either you have an annoyingly long walk to campus for your meetings, or you drive and leave your spouse stranded at the Orchards without a car. Not good!

The new Williams Inn solves those problems. It will be plush. It is as close to campus as possible, allowing you to walk to all your meetings while your spouse keeps the car to explore the local region.

I am not claiming that anyone on the Trustees ever discussed these issues out loud. But I guarantee that they all thought about it. If the Record were a decent paper, we would have a lot more detail on the costs involved with this project, including the costs associated with the purchase of the old Williams Inn. It isn’t, so we don’t. Still, I am in favor of the new Williams Inn. First, it will be very convenient for all us rich guys. Rich Eph Lives Matter Too! Second, it is probably a good idea for Williams to make any visits to Williamstown for major donors as pleasant as possible. My sense is that our peers all have first class hotels within easy walking distance of their campuses.

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Word that You’re Looking for is a Racist

From MassLive:

A “standard liberal” feminist author Williams College hosted this week ran afoul of some students in her audience, who ended up branding her “racist” and “white supremacist.”

Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, shared her views on feminism and identity politics at the Western Massachusetts institution.

Some of the attendees, including several students in the gender and women’s studies department, took issue with her talk.

Video was shot of the tense question and answer section featuring several students’ profanity peppered rants, insults on the Brandeis University alum’s scholarship and disruptive, derisive snickers.

1) I hope that the Record will provide thorough coverage of this event. Kudos to Zach Wood ’18 and Uncomfortable Learning for arranging the event!

2) In my fantasy world, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies paid for, or at least sponsored, the talk, all in the best spirit of uncomfortable learning. Odds of that being true?

3) It is good news that Williams, as an institution, is still bringing alternative viewpoints to campus. Very few among the powerful alumni who matter want Williams to turn into Swarthmore, much less Oberlin. Alas:

One student expressed frustration that Sommers was allowed to share her “harmful” message at the school and another, with contempt, referred to “people like you” before accusing the registered Democrat of being a white supremacist due to her chosen reading.

Over the last 15 years, the opinion that certain views — almost always views on the right — should not be allowed at Williams has grown shockingly common. I did not predict this trend. Did you? Yet the trend seems to be, if anything, getting stronger. How long before someone like Sommers (or Charles Murray) is prevented from coming to Williams?

To be fair, there is a bit of quote-mining going on above. It is not clear that this student really wants to prevent Sommers from speaking at Williams. Also, the Williams students in the clip are well-spoken. However, they also want to get rid of “capitalism!”(Start around minute 8:00.) And that get fairly angry toward the end . . .

The finger-snapping is annoying. When did that become common?

More video:

Zach does a nice job moderating and moving on to the next questioner.

Great question to Sommers at the end (paraphrased): “If US society is as fair toward women as you claim, then why aren’t, for example, women 50% of all Fortune 500 CEOs?”

In reply, Sommers declines to offer students the red pill . . . Does she even know about it? John Derbyshire would have given a very different answer to that question . . .

All-in-all, it is a good thing that Williams put on this event, bringing an outside speaker with a very different viewpoint to campus and making some students, at least for a bit, uncomfortable.

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Rehire Robin and Kristine Petition Update

As of this posting, the petition, with a new target of 5,000, has now reached 3,336 signatures – more than the number of students on campus at any given time! When was the last time a current student lead petition got this many signatures from the Eph community?

Carl Sangree ’18 updated the description:

Things to do in the short term:

Donate to the Gofundme, which will directly benefit Robin and Kristine.

https://www.gofundme.com/support-robin

Email Steve Klass, who helps oversee dining services employees ( sklass@williams.edu ) and other Williams officials who may listen.

The GofundMe fundraiser, set up yesterday, has already broken its $2,000 goal ($2,555 as of this posting).

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Rehire Robin and Kristine

A petition by Carl Sangree ’18 to rehire fired dining services attendants Robin Alfonso and Kristine McLear has, as of this posting, garnered 1,628/2,500 signatures since it was posted five days ago. Earlier this morning, the petition broke its initial goal of 1,500.

My friend Robin Alfonso was fired from Williams College this summer. If you don’t know her by name, you probably knew her as “the ridiculously friendly Whitman’s snackbar lady.” Williams security accused her of smoking marijuana with students at the Mt. Hope Mansion during last year’s senior week, despite the denials of both her and students she was with. The administration fired her nonetheless, ignoring her fifteen years of faithful work without any prior incident. She is just as important to our community as any student or professor, yet she has not been treated with any level of fairness.

She is the main caregiver for her grandson and now is deprived of what was already a modest income. Her life has been effectively ruined, and she is extremely distraught even several months after the incident. She truly cherished Williams students and her job.

Williams is very keen on enforcing its drug policy but only seems to punish the most vulnerable members of our community. Please sign this petition so that I can help appeal Robin’s egregious termination at the hands of our college’s administration. Whatever punishment they believe she deserves has been served by her many times over.

Whenever I was having a bad day, I could count on Robin to cheer me up, and I know this was true for many others as well. Now she needs our help — let’s make this right.

UPDATE:
After writing this petition, I learned that another employee was treated just as unfairly as Robin as part of this same incident. Kristine McLear was also fired due to these same allegations and also claims she was never given a fair chance to defend herself; like Robin, she was presumed guilty. When I present this petition to administrators, I will also be arguing for Kristine. Kristine was a faithful employee and cherished just as Robin was.

No response from the administration yet. And we still have to talk about how former Williams Campus Security officer Joshua Costa and former employee Brian Marquis were terminated for blowing the whistle on the administration’s more, uhh, questionable behavior.

Edit: Last year, the Record profiled Robin Alfonso.

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Racial Trends, 5

The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 5.

enroll

Recall this New York Times article:

Alan Moldawer’s adopted twins, Matt and Andrew, had always thought of themselves as white. But when it came time for them to apply to college last year, Mr. Moldawer thought it might be worth investigating the origins of their slightly tan-tinted skin, with a new DNA kit that he had heard could determine an individual’s genetic ancestry. The results, designating the boys 9 percent Native American and 11 percent northern African, arrived too late for the admissions process. But Mr. Moldawer, a business executive in Silver Spring, Md., says they could be useful in obtaining financial aid.

And for getting into Williams!

“Naturally when you’re applying to college you’re looking at how your genetic status might help you,” said Mr. Moldawer, who knows that the twins’ birth parents are white, but has little information about their extended family. “I have three kids going now, and you can bet that any advantage we can take we will.”

Genetic tests, once obscure tools for scientists, have begun to influence everyday lives in many ways. The tests are reshaping people’s sense of themselves — where they came from, why they behave as they do, what disease might be coming their way.

It may be only natural then that ethnic ancestry tests, one of the first commercial products to emerge from the genetic revolution, are spurring a thorough exploration of the question, What is in it for me?

Quite a bit, at least in terms of admissions to elite colleges. The average combined SAT differential between African-American and Asian-American students at Williams is more than 230 points. Imagine that you are an ambitious high school senior with mid 600 SATs. Without a “hook,” you are highly unlikely to be admitted to Williams. Check the box marked African-American on the Common Application, and you improve your chances dramatically. How much do you really want to go to Williams?

Given the tests’ speculative nature, it seems unlikely that colleges, governments and other institutions will embrace them. But that has not stopped many test-takers from adopting new DNA-based ethnicities — and a sense of entitlement to the privileges typically reserved for them. Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights.

Note that the Common Application gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check.

ca

There is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America. All that matters is how you “identify yourself.”

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

Driving the pursuit of genetic bounty are start-up testing companies with names like DNA Tribes and Ethnoancestry. For $99 to $250, they promise to satisfy the human hunger to learn about one’s origins — and sometimes much more. On its Web site, a leader in this cottage industry, DNA Print Genomics, once urged people to use it “whether your goal is to validate your eligibility for race-based college admissions or government entitlements.”

If you care about the traditional notion of diversity at Williams — that it is critical for the College to have enough African-American students, students who identify themselves this way and are so treated by society — than this phrasing must make your blood run cold. What happens when hundreds (thousands?) of students with 600 level SATs take these tests and “discover” that they are African-American?

Some social critics fear that the tests could undermine programs meant to compensate those legitimately disadvantaged because of their race. Others say they highlight an underlying problem with labeling people by race in an increasingly multiracial society.

“If someone appears to be white and then finds out they are not, they haven’t experienced the kinds of things that affirmative action is supposed to remedy,” said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for student affairs at the University of Michigan, which won the right to use race as a factor in admissions in a 2003 Supreme Court decision.

Still, Michigan, like most other universities, relies on how students choose to describe themselves on admissions applications when assigning racial preferences.

Up until now, we have all assumed (hoped) that applicants are mostly honest. The College does not check that you are “really” African-American or Hispanic. They take you at your word — although they certainly like to see club membership, essay/recommendation references and other signs consistent with that check-mark.

Yet what happens when every student at elite high schools gets tested? This will happen. Indeed, how can any social studies teacher resist such a test when it would serve as a great starting point for all sorts of amazing class discussions?

Then, once every junior at Exeter has taken the test, it will be time for some fun discussions in the college councilor’s office.

Uptight Parent: We would really like Johnny to go to Williams.

College Counselor: Well, Johnny is a great kid who will do well at Colby. But, with his grades and test scores, Williams would be quite a reach.

UP: If Johnny were African-American, he would get into Williams.

CC: Well, that might or might not be true, but it hardly seems relevant to this discussion since Johnny is white.

UP: But the project that Johnny did for social studies showed that he was 2% sub-Saharan African.

CC: So . . .

UP: That means that he can check the African-American box on the Common Application.

CC: Well, the traditional usage of that box is for students that have always identified themselves, and been identified by others, as African-American.

UP: But it doesn’t say that on the form, does it?

CC: No.

UP: So, Johnny can check it, right? There is no school policy against it?

CC: Correct.

UP: In fact, since the test demonstrates that, scientifically, Johnny is African-America, I can count on the school to verify that designation in all its application paperwork.

CC: Yes. [Sigh] And I hear that the fall foliage is lovely in the Berkshires . . .

Think that this is just more stupid EphBlog fantasy?

Ashley Klett’s younger sister marked the “Asian” box on her college applications this year, after the elder Ms. Klett, 20, took a DNA test that said she was 2 percent East Asian and 98 percent European. Whether it mattered they do not know, but she did get into the college of her choice. “And they gave her a scholarship,” Ashley said.

Of course, being “Asian” does not help you when applying Williams.

The point here is not that the current admissions policy at Williams is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have. How much will the admissions process change as a result?

I first wrote about this topic more than a decade ago. Were my fears justified then? Perhaps not. What about the next decade? Time will tell.

Note, however, the notable tightening over the last decade. Back then it was, “If you wish to be identified with a particular ethnic group, please check all that apply.” You didn’t even have to identify yourself as African-American (as you have to now), you just had to “wish to be identified.” A reader comments [screen shot from Common Ap added by me]:

ca2There is an interesting parallel between colleges asking for full legal names and names of parents now (in 2017) vs them what was happening in 1920s. Back in 1920s, the colleges were asking for “full legal names of parents at birth”, mostly to figure out who was a Jewish person who changed their name to “pass” as a gentile. Currently, my guess is that the common application is asking for full names and places of birth of parents (again this is a recent addition to common application) primarily to:
– figure out whites who are trying to “pass” as Hispanic
– figure out Asians who are trying to “pass” as White

Comments on how much of an issue this is today? (Please save debate about what Williams policy should be for another thread. I am most interested in reports on what applicants are doing now and/or what you recommend that they do.)

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Racial Trends, 4

The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 4.

The Common Ap handles race and ethnicity very differently today than it has in the past. After the standard question as to: “Are you Hispanic or Latino?” you have a lot more options. (Recall that members of any racial group can be Hispanic.)

det1

Have any readers followed the Common Ap closely? I am fairly certain that the above approach is very different from what it was five years ago. Questions:

1) Is it new this year? Anyone know how or why? My sense is that there have been three major regimes in the last 20 years of college reporting on race. First, they had the standard boxes and a requirement that you only check one. Second (starting around 2010), they added a “two or more races option.” There was a lot of discussion about what that would mean for understanding, say, African-American enrollment over time. Third, they created the current version which allows maximal choice and details. det3You can check all 5 major race groupings. In fact, you can check all the boxes under each race grouping, i.e., China and India and Japan and so on. If you select one of the “other” boxes, you can provide further details.

2) Keep in mind that the Common Ap and the Common Data Set (pdf) now approach race very differently. (And what about federal reporting requirements, as recorded on IPEDS?) On the Common Data Set (and IPEDS?) the only non-standard race option is “Two or more races, non-Hispanic” and, if a person is listed as “Hispanic,” then no other box may also be checked. So, it is not obvious how colleges should (or will) map these new Common Ap responses to their Common Data Set submissions. For example, what if a student on the Common Ap checks the Hispanic box and the African-American box and the white box? (Perhaps his father is African heritage and was born in the Dominican Republic and his mother is white.) How will the College report him on the Common Data Set?

3) Here are the detailed options for the other major categories:

det2

4) All of this will generate a remarkably rich data set which, sadly, will be difficult to connect to the results from previous years. I would be most curious about the breakdown among African-American applicants. What proportion are the children of immigrants?

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Racial Trends, 3

The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 3.

Does Williams discriminate against Asian-Americans? See this New York Times article for background.

enroll

Williams is 15% Asian-American, more than triple their share of the US college-age population. Hardly a prima facie case for discrimination. But Asian-Americans also do much better than other groups in high school grades, SAT scores and other measures beloved by Williams Admissions. Recall:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

The raw number of Asian-Americans with Williams-caliber SAT scores (say, above 1450) is similar to the raw number of white students. (Of course, the proportion of the Asian-American student population with these scores is vastly higher.) Given this fact, shouldn’t the Williams class of 2020 have about the same raw number of Asian-American and white students? (The actual numbers are 297 white versus 74 Asian-American.)

Reasons to think that Williams does not discriminate:

First, athletes are much more likely to be white than Asian-American. As we have discussed, “tips” and “protects” are admitted outside of the normal admissions process. These 100 to 130 students should not be included as we try to understand the 297-to-74 discrepancy. Although some of these athletes are African-American/Hispanic, the vast majority are white. Only a handful are Asian-American. (We have no reason to think that, all else equal, Williams coaches favor whites.) Assume that there are 100 white athletes and 10 Asian-American. Leaving these students out of the totals means that the actual discrepancy is only 197-to-64.

Second, high quality Asian-Americans are much less likely to apply to Williams. This is surely true, right? Unfortunately, I have never seen good data on this, but, in many conversations with students at Harvard, it sure seems that the white students are much more likely to have at least considered, if not also applied to, Williams and/or other elite liberal arts college.

Third, Asian-Americans are less likely to enroll even if they apply and are accepted. This is undoubtedly true. (Contrary opinions welcome.) I have never met an Asian-American who turned down Harvard/Yale/Princeton for Williams or a place like it. I know of a dozen or more cases of white high school seniors who have done so. (Recall Diana Davis ’07 and Julia Sendor ’08.)

Could the role of athletic admissions and the preferences of Asian-American high school seniors be strong enough to explain the 297-to-74 ratio of white-to-Asian-American students? Perhaps! We now know that Williams, unlike Harvard, did not discriminate against Jews 100 years ago. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, unlike Harvard, don’t discriminate against Asian-Americans today?

Of course, the fact that Asian-Americans at Williams score about 20-30 points higher that white students on the math+verbal SAT (1505 versus 1480) does make one wonder. But maybe the athletic effect is enough to explain that? In fact, it does!

(297 * 1480 – 100 * 1430)/197 = 1505

Explanation of this calculation left as an exercise for the reader.

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Racial Trends, 2

The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 2.

What counts as Hispanic?

Recall this 2005 comment:

[Mr. Pallo, my college counselor] suggested that, on the Common Applications, I identify myself as Puerto Rican.

Depending on how you reckon, to say I am Puerto Rican is a half-truth or completely untrue. My mother was born there and raised in NYC since age six or so, and my father couldn’t be called anything but Caucasian. On other surveys, I’d sometimes checked the Puerto Rican and White boxes, sometimes just White.

I was bothered by Mr. Pallo’s suggestion, but I’d learned to trust him, and my parents supported his suggestion. A year ago, in fact, they had asked if I would use my mother’s maiden name, Reyes, hyphenated with my last name, Landsman, in my applications. I had flatly refused that. Needless to say, when I discussed my counselor’s suggestion with them, they supported him.

I asked Mr. Pallo if I could check both boxes. He responded with something along the lines of: “My fear is that that would be passed over, that someone would see ‘White’ and ‘Puerto Rican’ would be ignored.” After little more deliberation, I decided to trust him, and count it a small cost. So in that one question, I was Puerto Rican, though nothing else in my applications referred to that status.

Sure enough, I was admitted to Williams. Early freshman year, I received a letter from the Admissions Office. It stated that I had declared myself a minority on my application, specifically Puerto Rican. It asked if I still wanted to be considered so, and if not, to contact them and say otherwise. I thought about this a while. I did not particularly feel Puerto Rican, never have, and still don’t. Mom only spoke Spanish at home when she was being cute, or angry at us. I am not close with my PR family. But I saw no reason to take what I saw as a small risk of some kind of retribution, and I left Admissions with its original impressions.

So I was one of the however many “Latinos” in my year, though I doubt anyone at Williams outside of Bascom knew it.

For the class of 2016, Williams claimed (pdf) 78 Hispanics in a US student population of 516, or 15%. You can look up the names of the graduates in the 2016-2017 course catalog. Check them out! You will find lots of names that are, incontestably, Hispanic: Raventos, Cendejas, Partida and so on. But (sadly?), there are only 55 last names that are more likely than not Hispanic and only another 6 that are often Hispanic: Castellano, Moran, Sime, and so on. But 61 is not 78!

Part of the explanation, of course, is that Hispanic students are more likely to drop out than other students. But it would hardly be surprising if the scenario described above — Hispanic as far as the Williams Administration is concerned but just another white kid as far as your fellow students know — describes 20% of the Hispanic population at Williams.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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Racial Trends, 1

The New York Times covered racial enrollment trends at elite colleges. Key previous posts here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss these trends for 5 days. Today is Day 1.

Key plot:

enroll

Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis.

The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans . . .

Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’03 would probably point out that the 15% number is not the relevant benchmark because, for starters, it does not adjust for the differential rate of high school graduation across races. Since only 69% of blacks graduate from high school (compared to 86% of whites), blacks do not make up anywhere near to 15% of the college-age high school graduates in America. Also relevant is that blacks are less likely that whites to take the achievement tests which Williams requires. They make up only 13% of the population in the SAT and the ACT. They are also much less likely to attend, through no fault of their own, high schools which provide adequate preparation for the rigors of a Williams education.

Put all this together and I bet that Williams would claim that our current 10% result (albeit only 8% for the class of 2020) is fairly similar to the population of high school seniors from which Williams draws its students. A similar argument would apply to the under-representation of Hispanics at Williams.

And that is hardly a surprise! Recall that Williams has an explicit goal — not an illegal quota! — to have a student body which “relects” or “mirrors” the racial breakdown of America.

Amherst [to its credit?] has a much smaller percentage of white students (51%) compared to Williams at 64%. Pomona does even better (?) at 40%. I suspect that this difference has nothing to do with the preferences of people like Creighton and Falk. They love white people no more than the folks who run Amherst and Pomona. (Contrary opinions welcome!) Even if all three schools have the same standards, Williams will always lose out because Pomona has a much easier time yielding Hispanics from California and Amherst probably does better among blacks because of its (much?) less rural location.

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BSU Town Hall Sunday Afternoon

Via Facebook:

We would like to invite you to a Town Hall Meeting with members of the Black community on campus and the Black Student Union.

Topics of Discussion Will Include:

– The relationship between Athlete and POC culture on campus
– Racism within the Dean’s Office
– An event that involved a fellow student and the law.

We encourage you to attend and participate in this meeting so that we as a Black Community can come to a consensus as to how we can continue to help each other by working together towards shared success despite any differences that we may have. We hope that each person that attends this meeting will leave with: a better understanding of any issues raised, a better understanding of the dynamics of the black community as a whole, and with further steps towards positive change.

We would like to remind you to come prepared and ready to have a civil debate and nothing less. The conversation will be moderated by the BSU Board and its faculty affiliates.

We have included some additional information on the topics that are going to be discussed, and encourage everyone to take a look at these materials before the meeting.

link

link

Looking forward to seeing you there,
The Board

Any readers who attend the meeting should give us a report.

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Legacies: Health Care if and only if a Wall?

trump_wallSome chips on the table as Trump makes moves.

 Perhaps another discussion at Williams like this one 9 November, 2015 might add some interesting views on the perception of legacies: positive v negative.

Looking back at the numerous legislative fights, years of partisan polarization, and disputes over issues ranging from healthcare to a nuclear Iran, how should we think about Obama—his presidency, his achievements, his shortcomings?  What kind of leadership has Obama exercised?  What type of legacy will he leave?  What sorts of lessons should we take from his presidency?  Come listen as three keen observers of Obama and astute analysts of American politics answer these questions as they discuss race, the economy, the War on Terror, and more.

https://events.williams.edu/event/obama_leadership_legacy_lessons

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It’s Moutain Day!

The mountains call us
In their sun-dappled splendor.
Let’s get out and play!

Adam Falk
President and Professor
Williams College

From Scott Lewis, Director of the Outing Club:

Visit  http://woc.williams.edu/ to see the list of hikes and on-campus events AND to check for any updates should the weather suddenly change!

Mountain Day is a celebration of community and place.  We would like to emphasize that Mountain Day is a day off for enjoying company, music, the all campus picnic and the splendor of our surroundings!
(A huge thank you to Dining Services for all their work on this day)

Mountain Day Accessibility Vans
Full transport to Stone Hill and Stony Ledge on Mountain Day is available- there will also be seating at both locations. Please email Phacelia Cramer (pjc2) with questions or to reserve a seat on the vans to Stone Hill, Stony Ledge, or both!

A quick highlight reel of the schedule:

10 a.m. – hike from Chapin to Stone Hill, performances by student groups, refreshments provided

11 a.m – 1 p.m.  community picnic on Chapin Lawn
Administrative offices should consider closing for an hour to enjoy this campus-wide celebration.

12:30 p.m. – bus transportation to Stoney Ledge and Hopper trailheads (buses parked along Mission Park Drive behind Chapin Hall). Since the bus will not bring you directly to Stoney Ledge, please be prepared for changing weather and temperatures as you hike up AND down the mountain 2 miles each way. You should have hiking shoes for wet, muddy, slick terrain and bring a filled water bottle!

2:45 p.m. – Stoney Ledge performances by student groups, refreshments provided

4:45 p.m. – bus transportation from Stoney Ledge and Hopper trailheads to Mission Park Drive

Hope you can all seize the day and take time out to be outside!!

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Divest Williams Wedding

Even if you disagree with the goals of the Divest Williams effort, you have to admire their commitment and moxie.

divest

From the Record last April:

On Friday, Divest Williams staged a mock wedding between the College and the fossil fuels industry to protest the College’s investment in that industry and call for divestment from it.

The wedding, which was attended by roughly 150 students, faculty, and staff members, followed mock weddings staged over the past few years by divestment activists at Whitman College and the Universities of Washington, Montana and Oregon.

Max Harmon ’19 played the part of the bride – the College, wearing a cow costume and veil. Linda Worden ’19, dressed as President Adam Falk, escorted him down the aisle. In front of them, Phacelia Cramer ’19 scattered fake hundred dollar bills like rose petals. Lili Bierer ’19 played the groom, representing the fossil fuels industry by wearing a suit adorned with the logos of large oil and gas companies and a tall hat made of smoke stacks.

Well done! Read the whole thing. However, there was at least one sour note:

wtrThe bridesmaids included Haley Bosse ’20, MaKaila DeSano-Smith ’18 and Suiyi Tang ’19, dressed as Michael Eisenson ’77, O. Andreas Halvorsen ’86 and Martha Williamson ’77 — three members of the Board of Trustees. The Board announced in 2015 that it would not be divesting from fossil fuels. Halvorsen stated at this year’s open forum with the trustees that the matter was a closed issue.

With the ceremony over, the wedding party and many audience members sang, “We’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll, we’re gonna roll divestment on … If trustees are in the way, we’re gonna roll it over them … If Falk gets in the way, we’re gonna roll it over him. We’re gonna roll divestment on!”

The mock wedding was one of Divest Williams’ more humorous actions, according to Worden. She said it is “important to employ different tactics throughout the year” because “different tactics appeal to different audiences. As a group, it keeps energy going to have a variety of approaches.”

Is Divest Williams really going after Martha Williamson’s ’77 daughters? That is unbelievably rude. If I were Dean of the College, I would have a few choice words for Suiyi Tang ’19 and the rest of Divest Williams. The children of fellow Ephs are off-limits — whatever the depths of your disagreements may be.

Of course, the College should (would?) never punish a student for engaging in free speech, but an education in the costs/benefits of such tactics would be useful. There is no better way to get the trustees to ignore you forevermore than to go after one of them in such a personal way.

Is there some backstory here? Did Williamson, in a previous meeting with Divest Williams, mention the race of her daughters?

Haley Bosse’s ’20 costume was also . . . edgy . . . in a way that she might not have realized or intended . . .

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Students Warned By Professors About Sexual Harassment Complaints Against Their Colleague

At least three current students have reported to EphBlog that professors in a for-now-unnamed department warn current students they advise to either a) not take a course and/or b) distance themselves from one particular professor due to a number of sexual harassment complaints, including “coming onto” students during office hours and attempting to engage in other inappropriate behavior. Despite the complaints, which have come at least since the 2013-2014 academic year, this professor is still currently in the employment of the College and is teaching a class this semester. Notably, this professor only conducts class on a limited number of days a week when they are allowed on campus, a measure enacted since the 2014-2015 academic year in response to the complaints. At least for the last year, this professor has not held office hours for their classes.

Questions/comments:

1. What is this professor still doing in a Williams classroom?!?! As an example of what we don’t want students to become? Students come to the College precisely because of the learning that happens from the close relationships we develop with our professors around the subjects that excite our passions. To engage in such gross behavior and take advantage of students in that way is to spit on the spirit of Williams and the rest of its wonderful teachers. And, if for a moment we entertain the thought that this professor learned from their mistakes, we ought to ask ourselves why their colleagues still feel the need to warn students. And on that note…

2. … for current professors to warn current students against taking a class with their colleague is a big deal. It means that they a) know about this professor’s behavior and b) think it is egregious and recurrent enough to explicitly dissuade students from taking their classes. A current student was warned by another professor in the department as recently as spring of 2017, when deciding classes for this fall 2017 semester. If this professor’s behavior did not continue in some form since 2014, do you think the current student would have been warned?

3. We need to know who knew about this and when. Note that for this professor to a) still be on campus despite their colleagues knowing; b) teach in a limited capacity; c) get away with not holding office hours (I have never had nor heard of a professor in any department that did not have them), someone higher up had to know. Classroom scheduling is handled by the Registrar, so it’s likely that someone in the administration knew of this arrangement too. Someone somewhere made the decision to keep this professor on the College’s payroll. We need to know who and for what possible reasons they have continued to let students share a classroom with this professor.

4. Recall the College’s Ending Sexual Assault video. Adam Falk says (around 0:16) “What’s fundamental to our work at Williams is that everyone who comes to the College comes to an environment in which they can thrive.” Do you think this is what he had in mind?

5. Do readers think that EphBlog should reveal the name of the department of the professor?

More to come as this story develops.

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Presidential Search Update

Dear Ephs,

Over the past two weeks, we have heard from many of you with thoughts and opinions about what to look for in our next President. We are winding down the input gathering phase but wanted to highlight a couple of final ways to engage with the process.
  • Fill out this survey! Information provided here will be used to help draft the job description. Please fill it out by midnight on October 18.
  • Stop by our table in Paresky tomorrow and Thursday at lunch! We will be there from 11:45 to 1:00 both days.
  • Email us! You can even just reply to this thread.
  • Have another idea? Let us know! We always want to hear how we can best get your opinions.
Thank you to all those who have already spoken to us, wrote a sticky note or sent an email! We have had many interesting conversations and look forward to many more.
Enjoy the short week!
Sarah Hollinger and Ben Gips
Student Representatives, Presidential Search Committee
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Title IX Update

Useful update on Title IX from former Williams professor KC Johnson:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on September 22 formally rescinded the Obama administration’s commands that universities use unfair rules in sexual-misconduct investigations—rules that had the effect of finding more students guilty of sexual assault. And she appears also to be preparing for far more forceful due-process protections down the road.

Those follow-on regulations could require schools to presume that accused students are innocent unless proven guilty, to allow rigorous cross-examination of accusers, and perhaps also to grant the accused the unqualified right to appeal adverse decisions, and more.

Meanwhile, the modest improvements that DeVos included in the “interim guidance” of September 22 let universities know how to comply with the Education Department’s requirements during the time between the end of the Obama decrees and the final adoption of new, carefully considered regulations.

Read the whole thing.

At a recent meeting with alumni, President Falk suggested the following: First, the College had already incorporated most of the suggestions on the Obama era guidance, even before that guidance was made, so DeVos decision really doesn’t effect Williams. (Is that true? Perhaps the most important change involved the change in burden of proof standards, and I don’t remember that changing before Obama’s guidance.) Second, Falk suggested that, despite whatever DeVos might suggest, the College would continue to do what it thinks best to fight the scourge of sexual assault at Williams.

Has anyone who has gone through the details of the Safety Dance case think that Williams is on the right track? I don’t.

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Students Simply Self-Stratify

Interesting comment:

As a current student, I’m tired of the narrative that the kids who are pulled in largely through “other” factors are equally as academically qualified. This has been demonstrated to be empirically false- statistics do not lie. The validity of the op-ed thus rests upon whether or not other highly nebulous factors should supersede this lessened academic qualification. I would like to think that this could be the case- but it seems to me that the vast majority of students simply self-stratify, so that diversity based benefits are minimized. Additionally, the constant threat of being lampooned for mis-speaking makes it simply not worth it to engage on controversial issues. I would love to have discussions about what white privilege is and about the extent to which it pervades our society, for example. I think that’s really interesting. But why would I ever do that? The benefits are dwarfed by the risks, especially for the people who would benefit the most!. This is why, ironically, things like uncomfortable learning would make campus in a way safer for minorities- there would be a culture that made white people’s “cost benefit analysis” differently weighted, so that they might be willing to engage and might learn something from discussion! Additionally, this would go a long way towards increasing the actual benefits of diversity, as is discussed above.

Good points. I miss the WSO discussion section! Ten years ago, a student would have left this comment there, and started off a thoughtful discussion among Ephs with a wide variety of views. Now, nothing.

There is a great senior thesis to be written about self-stratification among Williams students.

Here [Data removed by request from Williams.] is Williams housing data for this year. Do you see much self-stratification? Should we spend time going through it?

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Some color for the gray columns of actuarial acumen …

berkshires_foliage_smFrom the Boston Globe …

The Mohawk Trail, Massachusetts: Oct. 6-9

Cambridge commuters may know Route 2 as a source of endless frustration and gridlock. But out in central and western Massachusetts, the highway becomes the Mohawk Trail, a 60-mile path through the Berkshires from Orange to Williamstown. 

https://www.boston.com/culture/travel/2017/09/21/your-ultimate-guide-to-new-england-fall-foliage

Photo credit   http://www.leafpeepers.com/mass.htm

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Athletic Admissions Details

Purpose of this post is to gather together (and save) some relevant links/commentary related to athletic admissions. The best EphBlog introduction is still this 2008 post. Key background readings include the 2002 MacDonald Report (pdf) and the 2009 Athletics Committee Report.

Summary: There are 66 “tips” — recruited athletes in each Williams class. These are students specifically selected by coaches and promised admission, almost always via early decision. They would not have been accepted by Williams if they did not appear on the coach’s list. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below. The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score. Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

Back in 2009 I had an off-the-record exchange with a Williams coach about some of these details. Much may have changed in the interim, but these are some of what I was told (slightly edited for clarity):

President Morty Schapiro cut slots, raised the standards for athletes and lowered the yield for athletic priority slots to 1 for 1. Before Morty coaches were allowed 2 admits for every matriculant (as long as they applied regular admission vs. early decision). Coaches were not penalized for over-yielding. Before Morty protects were 4’s. Before Morty certain higher profile sports were given 7’s. After Morty tips were cut from 72 to 66 (the cut was actually much deeper as the 72 number was more like 90 with the over-yield). Protect level was raised to 3. Yield was lowered to 1 for 1. Free alumni athletic level was raised from 4 to 3. No 7’s and very few 6’s for any team other than football and football 7’s/6’s had to be socio-ec (don’t think the socio-ec part was enforced). Minority admits were not effected by these changes.

Football got the most lower academic-rated kids, followed by men’s and women’s hockey and then all the other sports were pretty much the same with crew, tennis and squash having the highest standards. If memory serves, football got 14, men’s and women’s hockey 5 each, men’s and women’s soccer 3 each and every other team 1 or 2 (baseball-2, softball-2, men’s and women’s lacrosse-2, men’s and women’ basketball-2, men’s and women’s tennis-1, field hockey-2, squash and crew-protect only. all teams got a “protect” (high band) in addition to the tips…..not sure if men’s and women’s swimming, skiing and track got 2 or 3

Men’s hockey was the only team without a protect (not sure about the women). That happened when the department slots got cut and Bill Kangas gave up the protect to keep 5 tips. Men’s and women’s tennis get 1 tip and 1 protect.

Athletic 2’s were admitted free as were alumni 3’s. As a general rule of thumb under represented minorities (black/Hispanic) that were admissible on an athletic priority list by white standards did not count against the coach a long as they were “embracing their ethnicity.” My experience was that URMs did not count as tips unless they were really low in a level 1 sport. Hispanics were a little dicier as I recall. Caribbean, or inter city American types more likely to qualify vs Mexicans, Europeans or South Americans of Spanish ancestry.

Comments from current Williams coaches on the accuracy of these details would be much appreciated!

Best recent overview of NESCAC athletic recruiting is this three-part 2014 series from the Bowdoin Orient: 1, 2, and 3. All the articles are below the break, saved since the Orient’s does not archive them.

From a 2013 article about lacrosse recruiting:

NESCAC institutions use a banding system that the athletic and admissions departments use to rank players who seek admission. The banding breaks players up based on GPA, Class Rank, SAT (or ACT) and SAT 2 and then categorizes them as A Band, B Band or C Band. Over a 4 year period, schools slot a certain amount of players per band. The system allows for more flexibility than the Ivy’s Academic Index but limits weaker academic applicants. Schools are generally given 4-7 slots per year. At a school like Williams, the class may be made up of 4 A Band students and 2 B Band students. The same B Band student at Williams could be considered an A Band student at a slightly less selective school like Bates.

So here is a general outline of A, B and C Bands for NESCAC schools.

A Band
SAT Scores 700+ average all above 670
SAT II 710
GPA: 92+ GPA, Almost All As
Class Rank: Top 5%
Courses: 4+ APs, Honors Classes

B Band
SAT scores 650+ average, all above 620
SAT II 640
GPA: 88+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs
Class Rank: Top 15%
Courses: Few AP Courses, Honors

C Band
SAT scores 630+ average, all above 590
SAT II 600
GPA: 85+ GPA, Mix of As, Bs, occasional Cs
Class Rank: Top 20%
Courses: Honors

Athletic preferences in admissions can be confusing because of the insider terminology. Within Williams, we talk about “tips” and “protects.” Across NESCAC, the discussion centers around “bands.”

See more complete discussion from this 2010 presentation (ppt) about hockey recruiting.

Summary: No one really cares if you are a star athlete in a sport for which Williams does not field a team. No one cares if you are a star athlete in a sport we do compete in unless the coach puts you on her list. (If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an all-state goalie and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on her list.) If you are on the coach’s list, then she will expect you to apply early decision. (That way, she can be certain that you are coming.) If she tells you that you will be accepted than, 95%+ of the time, you will be. Williams coaches have a reputation, which they have every incentive to maintain, of playing these straight with applicants. Read Playing the Game for more details.

Below the break are the full text of the articles from the Orient. Highly recommended.

Read more

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To the Record Editorial Board: Do Your Job

The most annoying aspect of the debate over admissions is the College’s refusal to be honest with the community over the standards/processes that it uses. The second most annoying aspect is the Administrations laziness in not trying hard enough to recruit hard-to-enroll groups like high scoring African-Americans. The third most annoying aspect is today’s topic: the Record‘s failure to report the news.

Consider the Record‘s editorial on the infamous Best-College-in-the-World (BCW) op-ed:

The piece’s categorization of the College’s current admissions process as one in which student are labeled as “academic” or “other,” and where those comprising the “other” category are athletes, racial minorities or low-income students, is both misguided and, more crucially, demeaning.

“Misguided” and “demeaning” are, perhaps, relevant adjectives to include in an editorial. But intelligent readers are looking for adjectives like “inaccurate” or “incomplete.” Does the op-ed provide an accurate description of how the admissions process works at Williams or doesn’t it? Without that information, it is hard to judge anything else. And, if it is accurate, then adjectives like “demeaning” are confusing at best.

And it is the Record‘s primary function to inform its readers about how Williams works, to report, you know, the News. Hint to Record reporters: Start here. A fair complaint about Williams, relative to schools like Harvard, is that much of our conversation occurs at the level of an (excellent!) prep school, a place where, not only is the Administration rarely challenged (recent examples here and here) but where the details of actual policy are kept secret. Compare news stories in the Crimson versus those in the Record. It is too weep.

Of course, the Crimson has more people and resources than the Record. It is a daily, not weekly, effort. But there is no excuse for the Record to devote three pages of commentary to admissions at Williams while, at the same time, not explaining to its readers how admissions works.

The editorial concludes with:

Additionally, it is well understood that SAT scores are a poor metric of the quality of academic work that will be undertaken when a student comes to the College.

Then why does Williams use them! I don’t control Williams admissions. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton ’03 and Dick Nesbitt ’74 do. Why do they not only use the SAT/ACT but actually require that all applicants take these, and similar, standardized tests? Again, I am not so much angry with the Record as I am embarrassed for them. And, for the record, SAT scores (and Academic Rating) are an outstanding predictor of the grades that students will get at Williams.

Almost every sentence in the editorial is either factually suspect or childishly naive. Worth a week to go through it line-by-line?

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Resist

Via a post to the class of 2018 Facebook Group from Emily O’brien, we find this petition, now interspersed with my comments:

It has come to our attention that last night, around 5 pm, a junior was taken into custody at CSS and then at the Williamstown Police Department. While he was in holding, CSS searched his room. After the search, said student was received drug charges from WPD and disciplinary charges from the College.

The interaction of the College with WPD is a topic we have covered on occasion, but perhaps not to the depth that we should have. I assume that there is some standard operating procedure involving room searches. I think that there is an arrest involving WPD about once per year, almost always involving drugs.

The punishment that this student may incur follows a long history of racist and classist practices in disciplinary enforcement at Williams.

True? There is a great senior thesis or Record article to be written about the history of “disciplinary enforcement at Williams.” Who will write it? My sense is that African-American males are much more likely to be caught up in these situations than other students.

The college continues to search for and accept students from low-income households and people of color who fuel their problematic “diversity” statistics without actually caring about the lives of those same students.

Harsh but fair. The College loves to brag about diversity, but refuses to discuss the fact that students in the bottom 20% of enrollees — more or less academic rating less than 4 and/or SAT less than 1300 — do much worse than other students. If such students only graduate at, say, the rate of 75%, isn’t the College doing something wrong in admitting them? Or at least in admitting them without being transparent about their odds of graduation?

How can the college claim it is a “diverse” and “inclusive” community while continuously criminalizing and punishing low-income students and students of color, specifically black students. The student who is in potential trouble is a black student from a low-income household.

Because the College doesn’t really care about them. Emily O’brien is displaying a touching degree of naivete to think otherwise. Adam Falk and Liz Creighton love to primp and preen as oh-so-virtuous, but, when the cops hit the door, it is obvious whose side they are on.

Wouldn’t this student have been better off if he had not been accepted at Williams?

This petition calls for a few things:

1) Williams College should drop the charges against said student, and provide the support necessary for said student to fight the legal charges he incurred after CSS searched his room.

Once the WPD is involved, the College can’t “drop the charges.” Only the District Attorney gets to decide who is charged and who is not. (Of course, the College, in its interactions with local power brokers has favors it can grant and call in, so they might be able to cajole the DA into not pressing charges.

Independent of the DA, Williams has little choice but to enforce its rules about drags against this student in the same way that it does against other students. I think that this generally involves a one or two semester suspension.

2) Williams College should hold a community meeting that is charged with re-thinking the disciplinary processes it utilizes to criminalize and punish those at this school that are already most marginalized.

EphBlog votes Yes! The more open discussion there is about the College’s policies, the better.

Advice to Emily: Try to get College Council or the Gargoyles or the BSU involved. They probably have the power to force a community meeting.

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“Almost Like Praying” Bernstein/Sondheim ’50 hit joins Lin-Manuel Miranda as All-Star song for Puerto Rico.

sondheim-miranda-1507306370 ….  Getty Images/Forward Montage

 Hamilton” mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda has collaborated with an all-star lineup of artists to release “Almost Like Praying,” a hurricane relief single in support of Puerto Rico. Proceeds from the song, which was released Friday morning, will go to the Hispanic Federation UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund. In addition, YouTube will make a contribution to the organization.

Recorded in less than a week, “Almost Like Praying” features a wide spectrum of artists, including Gina Rodriguez, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Luis Fonsi, Marc Anthony, Rita Moreno, and many more. An accompanying video, available through the official Atlantic Records YouTube channel, features footage of Miranda traveling to New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Puerto Rico to record with each artist. With samples from Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim’s “Maria,” music and lyrics for the track were created by Miranda and include references to more than 70 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Miranda, who tweeted that President Trump is “going straight to hell” for his response to the disaster in Puerto Rico, told USA Today, “I was very glad to have something to do while that was happening. I was hoping for an announcement of additional troops on the ground, additional aid. I read about it after. In the absence of that, we have to just keep focusing on our work.”     

       …    Variety  October 6, 2017

http://variety.com/2017/music/news/lin-manuel-miranda-and-artists-for-puerto-rico-release-hurricane-relief-song-almost-like-praying-listen-1202582541/

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