From abl:

there’s a separate question about creating a Williams environment that supports all of its students. Without a critical mass of students from under-represented groups, Williams will struggle to attract students from these groups, and students from these groups may struggle at Williams. It may therefore be beneficial or even necessary for Williams to admit more students from these groups than it would otherwise so as to build a class that “works” for everyone. This is true, even if you accept both of my above points: there’s a real happiness/satistfaction cost to adopting an admissions policy that leaves Williams looking more like Caltech–student outcomes and student satisfaction for those few URM students at Williams are likely to plummet in an isolating environment of that nature.

“Critical mass” arguments for affirmative action mostly fail:

1) They don’t apply to smaller groups. Williams has (pdf) 2 total students who are “American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic.” That doesn’t seem like much mass to me!

2) abl has no evidence — because there is no evidence — that “student satisfaction for those few URM students at Williams are likely to plummet” if we practiced less affirmative action. African-American students at Williams are almost certainly less satisfied than other students at Williams, but is the gap any greater at Middlebury, with a much smaller percentage of African-American students? Not that I have heard.

3) abl has no evidence — because there is no evidence — that “students from these groups may struggle at Williams” without a critical mass. Middlebury, and other schools, with fewer URMs don’t see this and Williams itself does not see that effect in relation to Amherst, which has a much higher percentage of African-American students than we do.

Again, the true goal of Williams admissions is to have a class that “reflects” or “mirrors” the US population. The American Indian population is small, so 2 total students is fine. No one really cares whether or not there is a critical mass of such students because critical mass is not the true goal. Proportional representation is the goal. Critical mass is just one of the ex post facto stories used to justify the goal.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email