abl made these interesting comments on admissions two months ago. Let’s spend a week going through them. Day 4.

Is your issue, then, with the types of diversity that Williams is adding?

The preferences that Williams uses in admissions are indistinguishable from those used at other elite schools. The main battle I fight is with people who deny that the preferences exist and/or those who underestimate their magnitude. In theory, I have no problems with race/wealth/athletics being an advantage in admissions. In particular, when picking among AR 1/2 applicants, Williams should be largely free to use any preferences it wants.

E.g., do you believe that the marginal value to the college community of admitting students who “identify as African-American” is zero, or close to zero?

No, I think it is positive. I just value it less than the people who run Williams today. But I also believe that much of the opposition to my views is driven by ignorance about the actual size of the preferences.

Or is your issue with the way that Williams is valuing specific categories of diversity? E.g., you accept that the marginal value of “identifying as African American” is significant–but you believe it to be less significant than Williams currently acknowledges.

It is hard to talk about “marginal value” without considering “marginal cost.” Every AR 5 student you admit is another AR 1 student whom you reject. Moreover, I use Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford as a fixed marker, a standard of student quality that we have to meet. Until we meet that standard, I am unwilling to spend anything on race/wealth/income. Fortunately, Williams is successful enough that, even once we meet that standard, we will still have a reasonable amount of diversity.

And, for those who dislike HYPS comparisons, I am happy to use Amherst/Swarthmore/Pomona. Of course, Williams is, at least, as good academically as those schools. But I want it to be a full notch better, I want 90% of the students admitted to both Williams and Amherst to choose Williams. If William is — and is seen as — having a student body significantly better than Amherst, then we might get there. The reason that Williams dominates, say, Bates in such relative yield contests is not because our English professors are better than Bates’ English professors!

In that case, for example, you would argue that the marginal value added to the overall Williams experience by matriculating an additional White student with a 1500 SAT is greater than the marginal value added by matriculating an African American student with a 1400 SAT–e.g., that the value added by having a student who has scored 100 points higher on her SAT is greater than the value added by having a student who is African American? Or is it that you believe that Williams is currently undervaluing the benefit of admitting students with marginally higher SATs/GPAs (and is therefore, across the board, relatively overvaluing all categories of diversity)?

Again, I don’t think that marginal value and marginal cost are the most useful framework.

By the way, your “African American student with a 1400 SAT” example is absurd. Williams accepts virtually every applicant like this today, and would continue to do so under my plan. We would start rejecting 1250 SAT African-American applicants (and soccer stars), especially the ones from middle class (or richer families) who attended excellent high schools. Would you object to that?

Also, I am happy to keep the number of white students at Williams constant, if that makes you feel better about our “diversity.” In other words, you could make all the changes I want and not increase white enrollment at all. Williams rejects 100+ Asian-American (and international) applicants who are AR 1.

Side question: Could abl, sigh, KSM and other folks with expertise in college admissions please correct any factual mistakes I have made in describing how admissions works at Williams?

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