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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.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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Historically Waspy Campuses

Two interesting comments from Muddy:

And this can be accomplished only if the “others” on these historically Waspy campuses exist is such a critical mass that they feel empowered and heard in a meaningful way. My feeling (I’ve worked my entire career on college campuses) is that the current numbers of kids of color at Williams and elsewhere is pretty much at the minimum it needs to be in order for the entire community to benefit from the immeasurable good their presence adds to the educational quality everyone enjoys.

If you really mean “at a minimum,” then I have a deal for you! Let’s replace 25 (or 50!) of the white students in the bottom admission bands (say, AR 4 and below) with 25 (or 50!) Asian-American (or Asian-Asian) applicants with AR 1 that the College currently rejects. This would increase the “current numbers of kids of color at Williams” while, simultaneously, improving the academic quality of each class. Since many (most?) such white admits are athletic tips, the cost might be a few more losses in certain sports, but, even then, Williams would still have an above average athletic programs.

I am honestly curious what you think of this proposal.

The best, most aspiring, most intrinsically interesting white kids will not generally feel compelled by a campus that minimizes the kinds of values I am talking about or one that is seen to be backtracking on its commitment to diversity. Less kids of color means less high value students of every background.

Perhaps, but I doubt it. Consider Middlebury and Caltech, two very different schools, both of which place much less emphasis on African-American enrollment than Williams currently does. Middlebury is at 4% and Caltech at 2% for the class of 2020. I have never heard of a white (or Asian-American!) student reporting that such low African-American enrollment was a reason why they turned down Middlebury/Caltech. Have you? I find the whole thing absurd because the number of white/Asian students who are even aware that Williams is 8% (twice as much as Middlebury!) and Amherst is at 12% (6 times more than Caltech!) is, essentially, zero.

But, as always, contrary opinions welcome. Do you know a white/Asian-American student who turned down Middlebury or Caltech because there were too few African-Americans?

The most subtle argument involves critical mass. While I have never met a white/Asian-American student who knew/cared about differential percentage of African-American enrollment across Middlebury/Williams/Amherst, I know that many African-American students themselves care a great deal. So, perhaps if we didn’t accept 20 or so African-American students from AR 6 and below, we would not be able to enroll the AR 3 and above African-American students whom we most want. Perhaps. Informed commentary welcome!

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Comments on International Admissions

This comment merits further discussion.

There are two issues with that [loosening the international quota]. The first is that international students have considerably lower graduation/retention rates than any other demographic group at the top schools. That’s not a consequence of ability but rather of uncertainty: financial aid for international students often doesn’t increase in later years, there is a geographic barrier, and foreign political/economic situations can complicate their coming back.

False. Here is the latest data on graduation rates:

gradu

International student 6-year graduation rate is about the same as that of white/Asian students, as we would expect. African-American/Hispanic students are about twice as likely to fail to graduate from Williams in 6 years.

Now, this data has evolved over time and you may be right about both earlier periods and about 4-year graduation rates. But, even then, a big driver is “diversity” among the international students. Not all international students are AR 1, after all. Indeed, I would not be surprised if some (many?) international students are AR 3 and below, if they come from the sorts of countries (not China, South Korea, England, et cetera) that Williams likes.

When I recommend increasing international enrollment, I mean for AR 1 students. Speaking roughly, I would start with about 25 more students from China/Korea/Japan.

The second issue is that the international pool is not as strong as it is constantly made out to be. Many of these students are not informed about how competitive US colleges are, so you get a lot of weak applicants applying when they have no chance of getting in. This is backed by the statistics of need-blind for international students schools like MIT and Amherst: the international acceptance rate is a third of the domestic one, even though these colleges have made assurances to not let ability to pay influence the likelihood of getting in. Many colleges (Williams, Wesleyan, Swarthmore) report a similar pattern: an international acceptance rate 1/4-1/2 that of domestic students.

Is the acceptance rate low because the pool is weaker or because these schools, like Williams, have a quota on international students?

Everyone that I have discussed this with — although contrary opinions are welcome — suggests that there are, at least 50 AR 1 international applicants (many not requiring any financial aid) who are currently rejected by Williams but who would enroll if given the chance. Do you disagree?

Even if students stand out academically, it isn’t enough. Prominent international universities like India Institute of Technology and Tsinghua University admit solely by performance on a test. The UK institutions- Cambridge, UCL, LSE, Oxford- don’t care about extracurricular activities at all. On the contrary, The top US colleges don’t just want perfect scorers. Williams doesn’t either. As a residential college, it wants committed students who will engage critically and meaningfully with their peers and their community. As a distinguished and scholarly place, it wants those who are committed to learning and open to having their viewpoints expanded and challenged across a broad spectrum of fields. Those things can only be evaluated by subjective perspectives, not the SAT.

False. First, there is no evidence that AR 1 applicants are, relative to AR 4 applicants, any less willing to “engage critically and meaningfully with their peers and their community.” If anything AR 1 students are more willing, or, at the very least they are much more willing to engage in academic work, and with a talent for doing so.

Second, are you arguing that the current Williams admissions process uses “subjective perspectives” in evaluating candidates? As if! Or are you arguing that it should? Perhaps. I am always happy to entertain a discussion of changes in the admissions process.

Not to say that Williams has done enough or that it should be content with where it is- the simple fact that you have 8400 students applying compared to 40000 at some top universities means that there is a significant cohort of good fit, high stats international students who should apply and largely be admitted. But here’s another question: how will Williams convince them to apply and attend over HYPS + other Ivies + other top 20 universities? The LAC name brand is virtually non-existent outside of the States, even for Williams and Amherst (beyond maybe Oxford/Cambridge/London).

Williams doesn’t need to convince 40,000 (or 40) high schools students (who don’t apply) to apply. We have plenty of applicants already! We just need to change who we admit and who we reject.

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There are Hundreds of Rejected AR 1s

Some readers doubted whether or not there were enough high quality applicants (currently) rejected by Williams who could be admitted as part of this plan. Allay those fears! There are hundreds of rejected AR 1s (and even more AR 2s) who would love to attend Williams if we were to accept them. Evidence:

Recall the 2005 Recipe (pdf) article:

The admission staff wait-listed or rejected nearly 300 of the 675 applicants to whom they had given their top “Academic 1” rating — a pool of students that, on average, ranked in the top 3 percent of their high school classes and had SAT scores of 1545.

Note Adam Falk’s report that, in the fall of 2013, Williams received more than 1,200 applications from students with academic ratings of 2. Since Williams accepts many fewer than 1,000 students in total from this bucket, there must also be hundreds of AR 2s who are rejected.

Amherst, to its credit, is much more transparent with its admissions data. Consider:

am4

Amherst admissions are not Williams admissions and SAT verbal scores are not the same thing as academic ratings. But, if there are almost 2,000 students with 700 and above verbal SAT scores who are rejected by Amherst, then there must be at least a few hundred AR 1 students rejected by Williams.

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How Admissions Works at Williams

Williams admissions work the same as admissions at most other elite colleges. If you understand the process at Swarthmore or Princeton, then you understand 99% of what happens at Williams. There are a variety of books about admissions at elite colleges, e.g., The Gatekeepers and A is for Admission. They capture 90% of the details. (These books are somewhat dated and may guild the lily a bit when it comes to race.) Williams Magazine published (pdf) an excellent 2005 article, “Recipe for Success,” about admissions. Virtually everything in it is true, but it also leaves out many of the more controversial aspects.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the Williams admissions process works in reality, not how it should work.

First, the most important part of the admissions process is the “academic rating,” often abbreviated as “AR.” From the Recipe article:

The full-time admission staffers, plus a handful of helpers like Phil Smith ’55 (Nesbitt’s predecessor as director), pore over the folders. Two readers examine each folder independently, without seeing each other’s comments, and assess them in three major ways. Each applicant gets an academic rating from 1 to 9 that focuses heavily on his or her high school grades, standardized test scores, the rigor of his or her academic program within the context of the school setting and the strength of teacher recommendations.

Nurnberg ’09 et al (pdf) provide a similar description:

After evaluating the applicant’s SAT scores, high school grades, essays, class rank, high school academic program, support from the high school administration, AP test score — or IB test scores — and teacher recommendations, admissions readers assign the applicant an academic rating from the scale 1 — 9, with 1 being the best.

Amherst, and all other elite colleges, use essentially the same system. The College does not like to reveal the details of these ratings, but we know from Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis that:

While the academic reader ratings are somewhat subjective, they are strongly influenced by the following guidelines.

  • Academic 1: at top or close to top of HS class / A record / exceptional academic program / 1520 – 1600 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 2: top 5% of HS class / mostly A record / extremely demanding academic program / 1450 – 1520 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 3: top 10% of HS class / many A grades / very demanding academic program / 1390 – 1450 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 5: top 20% of HS class / B record / demanding academic program / 1260 – 1320 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 6: top 20% of HS class / B record / average academic program / 1210 – 1280 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 7: top 25% of HS class / mostly B record / less than demanding program / 1140 – 1220 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 8: top 33% of HS class / mostly B record or below / concern about academic program / 1000 – 1180 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 9: everyone else.

These ratings are high-school-quality adjusted. At an elite school like Boston Latin or Exeter, you can be in the top 5% or even lower and still be an AR 1. At a weaker high school, you need to be the valedictorian. At the weakest high schools (bottom 25%?), even the valedictorian is almost never considered smart enough to go to Williams, at least in the absence of top standardized test scores.

Note that the working paper (pdf) from which these details are taken was co-authored by then-Williams president Morty Schapiro, so one hopes that it is accurate! Nurnberg’s senior thesis included a copy of the “Class of 2009 Folder Reading Guide, Academic Ratings,” which provided these details:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Williams, and all other elite schools, use this system because academic rating does a wonderful job of predicting academic performance at Williams and elsewhere.

Perhaps the main reason that this post is necessary is that Williams, when politically convenient, likes to deny the fundamental realities about how it decides who to admit and who to reject. Consider President Adam Falk and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 writing in the Record:

[T]he very notion that the “quality” of students can be defined on a single linear scale is preposterous

Academic rating is, precisely, a “single linear scale” and it is, by far, the major driver of admissions decisions. This is true both for the process as a whole and within sub-groups. For example, African-American applicants with academic rating 1 to 3 are virtually certain to be admitted while those with academic rating 8 or 9 are almost always rejected. The College may have different standards across sub-categories but, within each subcategory (except athletes and development prospects), the academic rating explains 90% of the variation.

Second, students with an academic rating worse than 2 (i.e., 3 or higher) are summarily rejected unless they have a specific “hook” or attribute.

The Recipe is explicit:

In general, all applicants with a combined academic rating of 3 or higher are rejected at this point, unless the first and second readers have identified one or more “attributes” that warrant additional consideration.

Details:

The readers also assign any of more than 30 “attributes” that admission uses to identify exceptional traits. Some of these are easily quantified, such as being the child or grand-child of an alumnus, a member of a minority group, an “impact” athlete or a local resident. Other more subjective “tags” draw attention (usually but not always favorably) to something special about a candidate, like a
powerful passion or aptitude for scientific research or an interest in getting
a non-science Ph.D.

From Nurnberg ’09 el al, attributes (in addition to race/ethnicity/gender) include:

alumni grandparent, alumni other, alumni parent, alumni sibling, studio art, development or future fundraising potential, dance, institutional connection,
intellectual vitality, local, music, politically active, religious, research science, economically disadvantaged, social service, theater, top athlete, tier 2 athlete, and tier 3 athlete

At this stage, the naive reader will assume that all these attributes have a similar effect. Being a great musician or a great athlete will help some AR 4s get into Williams, and that is OK. (And the College wants you to think that.) In fact, some attributes matter much more than others. Recall (from 2004!) Admissions Director Dick Nesbitt ’74:

We are able to admit roughly 120 top rated musicians each year from the top of the academic reader rating scale–what we refer to as academic 1′ and 2’s (broadly defined as 1500+ SAT’s and very top of the class).

In other words, for many/most attributes, the College does not need to dip below AR 1s and 2s. Yes, being a top musician may help you in the competition with other outstanding students, but, if you are AR 3 or below, it won’t. You will be rejected. And the same applies to other attributes. Top students are also, often, deeply involved in social service or theater. In high school, they often excel in research science or political activism. If Williams were to admit only AR 1s/2s, it would have plenty of students in all these categories.

Third, for applicants with AR 3 or below, the attributes that matter most are race, income and athletics.

Does this mean that no other attributes ever matter? No! It is certainly the case that the daughter of a prominent alum could get into Williams as an AR 4 or the son of a Williams professor as an AR 3. But the major categories, the ones that account for the vast majority of AR 3 and below admissions are race, income and athletics.

Don’t want to read all the posts from those links? Here is a brief summary:

1) There are 100 or so admissions decisions which are driven by a Williams coach. You are either on her list or you are not. These “tips” and “protects” are, by definition, only used for students with AR 3 and below. Best single post overview of the topic is here.

2) In the class of 2020, Williams has (pdf) 115 African-American/Hispanic students. Many of these are AR 1 or 2 applicants who would have been accepted at Williams regardless of which box they checked. But a majority, probably a vast majority, are AR 3 or below. Recall this discussion of SAT scores:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Asian-Americans in the 700+ range are at least 6 times more common than African-Americans/Hispanics. So, how can Williams have more African-Americans/Hispanics than Asian-Americans enrolled? (Hint: It isn’t because there aren’t 100+ Asian-Americans among the AR 1/2 applicants who are currently rejected by Williams.) The reason is that Williams admits scores of African-American/Hispanic applicants with AR 3 and below. Williams does this because it wants a class which “mirrors” or “reflects” the US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics. Note that the average African-American student at Amherst has an SAT score consistent with AR 5. It is highly unlikely that Williams does a better job than Amherst at attracting highly rated African-American students.

3) Unlike athletics (which the college is, sometimes, transparent about) and race (on which there is good data), family income and parental education are trickier. The College reports (and is proud of the fact) that about 20% of students are eligible for Pell Grants and that about 20% of students are first generation college students, meaning that they come from families in which neither parent has a 4 year BA. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups, and, to a lesser extent, between these two groups and African-American/Hispanic students.) The problem is that all standardized test results (and, therefore, academic rating) are skewed against such students. So, in order to get to 20%, Williams must admit scores of such students with AR 3 or below.

About 1/2 of a Williams class is AR 1 or 2. (The median math+verbal SAT score at Williams is 1450, which is the bottom of AR 2.) There are 100 recruited athletes (all of whom, by definition, are AR 3 or below), 100+ African-American/Hispanic students, 100+ first generation and 100+ Pell Grant recipients. That adds up to 400+ in a class of 550! Many students fall into more than one category. Many (outside the athletes) are AR 1 or 2. But, given that we only have 275 spots left beneath AR 1/2, a large majority of the bottom half of the class are members of at least one of these 4 categories. The bottom 100 students in each class (approximately AR 5 and below) is almost completely dominated by these students. And, in the categories outside of athletes, academic rating drives the decisions. Williams is much more likely to accept an African-American and/or a first generation student and/or a future Pell Grant recipient if her academic rating is 1 to 3. Every single AR 9 applicant is rejected, regardless of her other outstanding attributes.

And that is how admissions works at Williams, and almost all other elite colleges.

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Admissions Data

An anonymous source sent me this file (csv) of data related to Williams admissions.

> library(readr)
> x < - read_csv(file = "http://ephblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/admissions.csv")
> x
# A tibble: 2,110 x 10
   class enrolled state       country      ethnicity   sex   act reading  math writing
                                    
 1  2017        0    AZ United States Asian American     M    NA     770   790     770
 2  2019        0    AZ United States Asian American     F    35     730   770     760
 3  2019        0    AZ United States Asian American     M    NA     800   720     800
 4  2019        0    BC        Canada Asian American     F    NA     800   750     750
 5  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     F    NA     790   800     800
 6  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     M    NA     760   780     790
 7  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     M    NA     790   800     710
 8  2013        1    CA United States Asian American     F    NA     650   590     670
 9  2014        1    CA United States Asian American     F    NA     790   780     720
10  2014        1    CA United States Asian American     F    35     750   800     700
# ... with 2,100 more rows
> 

Comments:

1) Does this look real to you? It does to me, although it is obviously just a sample. Opinions welcome.

2) Should I spend a week exploring this data?

3) The sample is a strange subset of what the “complete” data must look like. For example:

> table(x$class, x$enrolled)
      
         0   1
  2011  86  99
  2013  96 119
  2014 123 105
  2015 124 116
  2016  77 125
  2017 232 159
  2019 172 143
  2020 164 170

a) Note that there is no data for the class of 2018. Perhaps removing this data is one way that Williams keeps track of who it gave this data to and, therefore, who it can go after for leaking it to me.

b) The numbers of students range for 185 for the class of 2011 to 391 for the class of 2017. Since around 1,250 applicants are admitted to Williams each year, we definitely don’t have the complete data.

c) It is interesting to see data for applicants that we admitted — I assume that everyone in this data was admitted — but who chose not to enroll.

d) Would you believe a 230 point difference between Asian-American and African-American SAT scores among Williams students?

> x %>% filter(enrolled == 1) %>% group_by(ethnicity) %>% 
     summarise(count = n(), act = round(mean(act, na.rm = TRUE)), 
               sat = round(mean(reading + math, na.rm = TRUE))) %>% 
     arrange(desc(sat))
# A tibble: 7 x 4
        ethnicity count   act   sat
               
1  Asian American   186    34  1506
2    Unidentified    18    34  1488
3           White   569    33  1480
4          Non-US    24    31  1374
5 Hispanic/Latino    99    30  1341
6 Native American     7    26  1302
7           Black   133    29  1274

That is what the data suggest . . .

Can’t resist adding an image:

density

Code for generating this below the break.
Read more

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Best College, 5

Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is the last day.

Let’s finish our discussion by going through the four specific recommendations given in the op-ed and providing some links to prior discussions.

First, we need to loosen the admissions goal for international students, which is currently at 8 percent. Besides the problematic morality of a policy that is indistinguishable from the Jewish quotas implemented by elite colleges a century ago, treating an (English-fluent) applicant born in Shanghai differently from one born in St. Louis makes little sense. The best college in the world will have the best students, regardless of the color of their passports.

International admissions (and the quota thereon) has been an EphBlog topic for more than a decade. Classic posts here and here. Although an informed reader provides some interesting comments here, there is no reason that Williams could not go from 8% international to Harvard’s 11%. International admissions should also focus less on country diversity and more on academic qualifications. You can be sure, for example, that a lot of the accepted students from places like Afghanistan and Botswana were less qualified than dozens of rejected applicants from places China and South Korea.

Second, we need to significantly decrease the admissions preferences given to athletes. The College has been decreasing these preferences for 15 years. Despite much grumbling from coaches and predictions of mediocrity from fans, the Director’s Cup trophies continue to roll in. It turns out that Williams coaches are excellent recruiters even when admissions standards are raised. Let’s raise them some more.

Key documents in the history of athletic preferences in admissions include the MacDonald Report and the 2009 Update. Read this useful summary of the debate. Despite decreasing admissions preferences for athletes significantly over the last 20 years, William still wins the Directors Cup almost every year!

Third, we should decrease the preferences given to under-represented minorities (URM) and to students from low income families. Of course, there are scores of such students with top-notch academic credentials. They would still be admitted and, eagerly, enrolled. But, given a choice between a URM or poor student with a 620 SAT average and a non-URM (perhaps an Asian-American?) or non-poor student (perhaps the middle class child of public high school teachers?) with a 770 average, we should prefer the academically more talented applicant.

Who recalls my ten part series on the incoherence of the preferences that Williams, and other elite schools, provide to poor families? Good stuff! (Especially the last post.) At his recent talk in Boston, President Falk reported that about 20% of the class of 2021 were from a family in which neither parent had a four year BA and that 20% were from a family poor enough to qualify for a Pell Grant. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups.) Many of these Ephs are AR 1s (often coming to us via Questbridge), among the smartest students at Williams. We need more like them! But, at the other end of the spectrum are weak students, AR 4s and 5s. We need more AR 1s and, if those students happen to be middle class or have parents who graduated from college, so be it.

Fourth, we need to recruit more seriously. The number of Tyng Scholarships should be increased and their use should be focused on the most desirable applicants, almost all of whom will be African-American. Rather than offering them for incoming first-years, we should use the Summer Science Program and Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program to target high quality poor and URM high school juniors, potential applicants that we currently lose to HYPS. Senior faculty at the College should devote as much effort to attracting excellent students as our coaches do to recruiting excellent student-athletes.

The second biggest annoyance of the entire debate is the refusal of Falk, and the rest of the Williams administration, to take recruitment seriously. Not a single critic mentioned this paragraph. Williams desperately needs more AR 1/2/3 African-American students. We get some, but we lose many more to Harvard et al. Why don’t we do more? First, as I proposed 8 years ago, the College should award almost all Tyng Scholarships to African-Americans, thereby luring 4 to 8 high quality students away from our elite peers. Second, Williams should use SSP/SHSS as a recruitment tool, not a preparation tool. Imagine that we invited 30 (or 50 or 100!) of the smartest poor and/or URM students in the country to Williams during the summer after their junior year in high school, thereby showing them what a magical place Williams can be, giving each of them the experience of a Williams tutorial. Then, in August, we tell the best of them, with a wink-and-a-nod, that they will be accepted to Williams if they apply early decision.

That is just part of what we would do if we were seriously interested in recruiting the best African-American/Hispanic and/or poor students in the country to come to Williams. We don’t do those things because . . .

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Best College, 4

Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is day 4.

The portion of the op-ed least likely to be confronted by its critics:

[W]e are not the best college in the world today.

The average SAT section score for the Class of 2020 is about 720. At Macalester and Wesleyan, it is 690. At Yale and Princeton, it is about 750. Macalester and Wesleyan are fine schools. Yet every Eph considers Williams, correctly, to be a cut above – not because our dining hall food is tastier, our professors are more learned or our facilities are more sumptuous, but because our students are smarter.

Yet that same reasoning applies to Yale/Princeton relative to us. A 30-point difference in the score on a single SAT might not seem like much. Can anyone really say that an applicant that scored 750 is meaningfully “smarter” than one who scored 720? But, to the extent that we think that the quality of the College’s student body is better than that of Macalester/Wesleyan, we need to admit that it is worse than that of Yale/Princeton. As long as that is true, we will never be the best college in the world.

Note that this judgment does not depend on using only the (potentially flawed) metric of SAT scores. Williams is worse than Yale/Princeton and better than Macalester/Wesleyan on any reasonable measure of academic performance, whether that be the ACT, SAT II Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, high school grades, teacher recommendations and so on. Elite schools rank applicants using, more or less, the same criteria. SAT scores are a handy, and public, summary statistic which demonstrates the relative quality of our student body.

Critics quibble about what the “best” college is while, at the same time, recommending that virtually any student admitted to both Williams and Wesleyan should choose Williams, as more than 90% of such students actually do. Indeed, perhaps this implies a theorem:

EphBlog Maxim #5: College X is “better” than College Y if a large majority of high school seniors admitted to both X and Y choose X.

Obviously, this does not mean that X is better than Y for every student in the world. Lots of students won’t even apply to X because it lacks something (an engineering major, warm weather) which they value. Nor does it imply that X is better than Y for the (relatively few) students who choose Y over X. They probably had good reasons for doing so. Yet this definition captures, in a well-specified fashion, what it means for one college to be “better” than the other. It also provides a plausible metric for Williams to aim for:

EphBlog Maxim #6: The best college in the world is the college that is chosen most often by students admitted to both it and to one of its competitors.

Readers: How do you tell if one college is better than another college? If a high school senior was admitted to Williams (or Amherst/Pomona) and to Weslesyan (or Macallister/Bates), wouldn’t you recommend that she choose Williams (or Amherst/Pomona)? If not, then why do 90% or more of such dual admittees choose the Williams/Amherst/Pomona option?

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Best College, 3

Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is day 3.

The Record butchered both the title of the op-ed and its opening paragraph. It should have been:

The Best College in the World

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world. “Best” means two things: First, we want the most academically talented students. Second, we want those students to thrive at Williams more than they would have at an alternative institution. Ignore the second criteria and focus on student quality. We are not the best college in the world today.

1) Williams does have an official “mission and purposes” statement. Alas, it is too long, too vague and too littered with the parochial political concerns of our era. I think we should replace it with the simple “best college in the world” formulation, but that is a debate for another day.

2) Whatever else it means, being the “best” college means having the “best” students. Of course, plenty will differ, will argue that, for example, it is more important, or as important, for Williams student body to be “diverse” — for various conflicting measures of diversity — than for it to be academically excellent. But the nice thing about academic excellence is that we all (mostly!) agree on what it means. Other metrics of “best” will always be too contested to provide a shared meaning.

3) I would leave the definition of the “best” students to the Williams faculty and the professionals in the admissions department. For example, the College could, each year, provide each faculty member with a list of all the students in the graduating class that she has taught and then ask her which of these students were her “best” students. Leave it to her to decide if “best” means highest grades or most engaged in class discussion or most original writing or whatever criteria she prefers.

When you do this, you will find that the vast, vast majority of students judged as “best” by the Williams faculty are academic rating 1 or 2, as determined by the admissions department. Very, very few of the students with academic rating below 4 are ever considered to be the “best” by Williams faculty. So, we should have more AR 1s and fewer AR 5s..

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Best College, 2

Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is day 2.

The key recommendation from the op-ed:

In order to create a Williams with students as smart as those at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford (HYPS), we need to replace about 100 of these “other” admits with “academic” admits.

Recall the data (pdf) for the class of 2020:

sat2

Williams should reject about 100 students (who it currently accepts) in that lowest academic bands (math+verbal SAT below 1300, composite ACT below 31, academic rating below 4). We should accept 100 students (who we currently reject) from the highest academic bands (math+verbal SAT above 1520, composite ACT above 34, academic rating of 1). Speaking roughly, this would cause the average academic quality of Williams students to match the average quality of Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford students. (Math left as an exercise for the reader.) The op-ed concludes:

A Williams whose student quality matched Yale’s would be halfway to meeting its mission of being the best college in the world. Such a Williams, at least in the short-term, would have about as many URM students as Middlebury, as many Pell Grant recipients as Colby and athletic team winning records similar to Hamilton’s. That seems a reasonable trade-off.

There are costs to doing the 100-student-swap. Williams might go from 8% African-America to 4%, just like Middlebury. We might go from 20% Pell Grant recipients to 10%, just like Colby. Our sports teams might go from amazing to average, just like Hamilton’s. If you think that Middlebury/Colby/Hamilton are horrible colleges because of these metrics then, obviously, you wouldn’t want to make that trade-off. To me, it seems worth it.

Readers: What types of students do you think Williams should admit more of? And, which students that we currently accept would you reject in order to make room for them?

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Best College, 1

Last week’s Record op-ed about making Williams the best college in the world has generated (a surprising amount of?) controversy, e.g., from President Adam Falk and Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, hundreds (!) of faculty/staff, Professor Matt Carter, Professor Shawn Rosenheim, the Record editorial board, Crystal McIntosh ’20, Mi Yu ’20 and Joon Hun Seong ’14. See also here and here. Let’s spend a week discussing it. Today is day 1.

The Williams admissions process is both complex and opaque but, broadly speaking, admitted students can be placed in two categories: academic and other. “Academic” admits are students who were admitted primarily for academic reasons. “Other” admits have scores/grades that would have led to rejection if it were not for some special attribute. The vast majority of “other” admits fall into three categories: athletics, race and income. In aggregate, they make up about one-half of each incoming class.

This is an accurate (brief!) summary of the current Williams admissions process. Read this and this for more details. Key sentence (from an official Williams publication):

In general, all applicants with a combined academic rating of 3 or higher are rejected at this point, unless the first and second readers have identified one or more “attributes” that warrant additional consideration.

Academic rating of 2 means (1450 – 1520) Math + Verbal SAT, with high school grades, teacher recommendations and other measures to match. The 1450 score is a convenient cut off because it is the median for the class of 2020 (pdf).

sat

The pretty little lie that Williams would like you to believe is that a wide variety of attributes — amazing actress, wonder editor of the school paper, caring volunteer — matter to the admissions process, that these talents/accomplishments explain many of the admissions approvals for students with below 1300 SAT scores. Sure, Williams will admit if pressed, athletic ability, family income/education and race play a role as well, but they are just some of the factors that might cause Williams to admit a student with SAT scores 100 or more points below the median.

But that is the lie. Of the bottom 100+ students in each class, those with academic ratings below 4, with SAT scores below 1300, 95% fall into the key categories of athlete (meaning a “tip,” specifically named by a coach), race (meaning African-American or Hispanic) and family background (meaning low income and/or non-BA holding parents). These are the categories that absolutely drive admissions decisions, especially for the bottom 100 students, but more broadly for the bottom half of the class.

And that is OK! Williams is a private institution and it can use whatever metrics it likes. In fact, Williams does the same thing as the vast majority of elite colleges. There is no scandal here.

The problem is when Williams lies — either explicitly or by omission — in its descriptions of the process. Lying is bad, both in and of itself and because it makes it impossible for faculty, students and alumni to have an informed discussion about what the policy should be.

Plea to the Record: Educate your readers about the details of the current Williams admissions process. Ask Director of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 questions like this:

Of the 100 or so students in the class of 2020 with math+verbal SAT score below 1300 and/or ACT below 31 and/or academic rating below 4, what percentage of them also have at least one of the following “attributes”: African-American/Hispanic, athletic tip or low family income/education?

The answer will be 95% or more. Although there are a tiny handful of applicants who are admitted with such low academic credentials — major donors? college employees? veterans? — these are a sideshow compared to the main drivers of race/athletics/income.

And, again, that is OK! Williams can admit who it wants for whatever reasons it chooses. But the Record should tell us the truth, should inform us that almost no one is admitted in the bottom 100 because they are a great artist or a promising student leader. (They might also be those things but that is not the reason they were accepted.)

Once we all understand what the admissions process is today, we can discuss what it should be tomorrow.

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Official Notification Letters for Class of 2021

For future historians, below is how Williams informed admitted students.

Early decision:

earlyd

Early write:

early

Regular decision:

regular

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Please Falk, Stop Panicking

Adam Falk has a habit of panicking at the sight of graffiti. This is an unhelpful personality tick for a Williams president to have in this day and age. The more he panics — the more all-campus e-mails, the more calls to the police, the more sturm und drang — the more graffiti incidents to come. Feeding the trolls is a bad idea, on the web or at Williams.

Consider the latest incident. Here is the photo:

Banner

Here is a close up:

kkcloseup

If just this (inconclusive!) image causes you to call the police (!), you are a fool.

First, it is not clear if this is actual graffiti! Those 3 Ks look different, as if they were written at different times, perhaps with different pens. The first two Ks seem fairly intentional. Perhaps there is a student nicknamed KK in the class of 2019? It would certainly be wise to try to find out before calling the FBI. (Not sure if Williams called the FBI on this one, but they have done so in the past.) In fact, it could be that the third K was written first (I see other faded out letters around it) and then the KK was added.

Second, even if this was written intentionally, the odds are that it was done so by a left-wing student, not by an actual supporter of the KKK. Recall that the Griffin Hall KKK vandalism last fall was created by left-wing students upset at Trump’s election. The racist graffiti in Prospect in 2011 was written by Jess Torres ’12, a minority Democratic activist.

Third, even if it was done intentionally and was not written by a left-wing student, it might have been done innocently. I realize that my Eph social justice warrior friends think that KKK is one of the worst symbols in the world and that everyone knows this. But (sadly?) that isn’t true. There are 200+ non-US citizens at Williams, many of them as clueless about American racial politics as you, dear reader, are about, say, Hindu nationalism. Recall the KKK cook-out of 2004.

fistFourth, even if it was done intentionally by someone who understood the meaning of KKK, it does not follow that punishment is a allowable (or wise) course of action. Note that the clenched fist on the poster, which seems likely (just to me?) to be a nod to the traditional symbol of Black Power. Once the College allows political symbols to be included on the banner — without any indication that this is against the rules — it would have trouble punishing someone for putting a different political symbol on the same banner. (It could forbid it and/or remove KKK. But it would have difficulty punishing a student for doing that, or at least with punishing a student willing to fight the system.

Instead of panicking, Falk should take a page out of Morty’s handbook and ignore the trolls. Students do stupid things and the bigger a deal you make of it, the more likely you are to get more of it. Now, if real damage is being done (as in Griffin) or serious (fake!) threats are being made (as in Prospect), then you do need to investigate. But for trivial stuff like this, your best bet is silence.

Recall how Morty handled Mary Jane Hitler a decade ago. Summary: This was an infinitely more serious situation with an actual Nazi on campus, putting up posters on student dorm room doors, with help from his Eph girlfriend, who Morty decided not to punish in any way.

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The Death of Faculty Governance at Williams

Note this Record interview with Falk:

Falk demurs on the notion that the College has grown more bureaucratic, emphasizing his belief that the goal of any hiring and reorganization was directly tied to the betterment of the community. “There had been great growth in the endowment in the previous decade [before I was president] and I think that it had put the College in a position where we didn’t have to make the same kind of difficult choices between different funding priorities that we would have to make once the endowment dropped 30 percent,” Falk said. “And we are just a more complex operation then we used to be. We have a debt portfolio of $300 million. We have a complicated [human resources structure], a complicated facilities operation, a childcare center, a controller’s office and auditors that are doing more and more sophisticated work. A lot of that is really hard work for a faculty member to rotate in every few years and do as effectively as someone who’s a really strong professional.”

The (anonymous!) faculty member who points out this passage asked some (rhetorical!) questions:

Falk’s opinion of faculty governance is on full display here. He clearly prefers a “really strong professional” to make the “difficult choices between different funding priorities.”

Exactly right. Most Williams presidents are remembered, at most, for one thing: Sawyer abolished fraternities. Chandler created Winter Study. Oakley instituted tutorials. What will Falk be remembered for 30 years from now? Tough to say, but one contender is: Put the final nail in the coffin of faculty governance.

Is it truly the case that students and faculty are comfortable with having unaccountable administrators in charge of the really difficult decisions?

Students don’t care, obviously. Faculty (like my correspondent!) love to complain but, when push came to shove, they did nothing of substance. Recall the “alignment” (pdf) that Falk outlined 7 years ago this week. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

Does he really have such a low opinion of the faculty who have taken on administrative roles?

That is unfair. Falk loves Dukes Love and Denise Buell and Marlene Sandstrom. There are a dozen or more faculty at Williams who want/wanted those jobs. Falk turned all of them down, in preference for the ones he picked. But, at the same time, Falk (and the trustees!) want to pay Chilton/Puddestar/Klass two or three times as much money Love/Buell/Sandstrom and give the former much more power.

If so, what is his opinion of the other faculty and their voice in charting a path for the College?

They should shut up. There are a dozen (or a score? or more?) faculty at Williams that Falk has never had a meaningful one-on-one conversation with.

In any organization, the power lies with a) the people paid the most and b) the people who spend the most time talking with the boss. At Williams, a) and b) describe the senior administrators, not the senior faculty.

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Williams Uses Racial Goals in Admissions

Williams, as the College would be quick to tell you, does not use racial “quotas” in admissions. It does not require that there be, exactly, 50 African-American students in each class. But Williams does have ethnic/racial goals. It wants a class that looks like America.

From the Record in 1998:

There are no specific quotas to be filled in the admissions process at Williams, Director of Admissions Thomas Parker explained. Rather, the admissions Office tries to admit a class that reflects national populations.

From the Record in 2012:

[Former Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Mike Reed ’75] explained that the College tries to model its student body on an “approximate mirroring” of the country, which requires recruiting students of color who otherwise would not apply.

A faculty friend reports, after talking with newish Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01, that the same policy is true today. Creighton believes that ethnic/racial breakdown of US students at Williams should match, as close as possible, the ethnic/racial breakdown of the college-age US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics.

This is true, not just at Williams, but across elite higher education in the US. Occasionally, uninformed people don’t realize this or naive people deny it. Purpose of this post is to document that they are wrong.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 3

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 3.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 2

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 2.

NESCAC schools should disallow participation by athletes older than 22 (except, in individual cases, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents).

The average age of student athletes in NESCAC continues to increase, further deepening the athlete/non-athlete divide at most schools. This is especially true for starters in high profile sports. Indeed, it is hard to find a NESCAC men’s hockey team in which several of the best players are not two years older than their classmates after spending several years in junior hockey. Although many students use the PG (post-graduate) year option to better prepare for the rigors of NESCAC academics, others (and the coaches who recruit them) use it as a red shirt year, a chance to become a better athlete. Since athletic ability peaks in your late 20s, this aging-of-athletes process will only continue. This isn’t too large a problem now, which makes it all the easier to end. Exceptions, by unanimous consent of the NESCAC presidents could be made in individual cases, like the military veteran who starts college at 21 and was not recruited specifically for his athletic talent. Once coaches know that they can’t play outstanding athletes who are too old, they will find plenty of 18-year-olds to recruit.

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NESCAC Suggestions, 1

Some crazy Williams alum sent this letter (pdf) to all the presidents of NESCAC schools. Let’s spend three days talking about it. Today is Day 1.

Football is too dangerous.

The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.*

NESCAC football may be less dangerous than playing in the NFL, but there is every reason to believe that it is more dangerous, by an order of magnitude, than every other NESCAC sport. More importantly, the defenses for football are weak:

“No student is forced to play football. To the extent doing so is dangerous, it is a student’s choice, just like participation in other risky activities like rock climbing.” The vast majority of starting players on most (all?) NESCAC football teams would not have been admitted to their school if they did not agree to play football. They don’t really have any “choice,” at least if they are being honest with the coach who is recruiting them. If they tell the coach that, while they would love to go to school X, they don’t plan on playing football, the coach won’t put them on his list and they won’t be accepted.

“Ending football would be too unpopular among the alumni and/or major donors.” Connecticut College has no football program, and yet does as well as the average NESCAC school in terms of alumni giving and loyalty. Swarthmore ended football 15 years ago and, after a short-lived controversy, has raised as much money as almost any liberal arts college.

“Football may be dangerous for students but it is not dangerous for the College.” The first football lawsuit against a NESCAC school is not far away. If the NFL was willing to pay millions to injured players, even those who had only been in the league for a season or two, why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to four-year NESCAC players? Do you want to be deposed by a plaintiff’s attorney about what you knew about the risks of football? Do your trustees? Organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets attract lawsuits. The more years you allow football to continue, the greater the potential liability.

* “Brain Trauma to Affect One in Three Players, N.F.L. Agrees” New York Times, September 12, 2014.

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We’re #1 (for the 15th year in a row)

Williams is #1 in the US News ranking, for the 15th year in a row.

Two schools have a lock on No. 1: Princeton University topped the U.S. News national university list for the seventh straight year, and Williams College led the liberal arts list for the 15th straight year.

Every time that we appear in a sentence like this (with Princeton!), the better for our brand. (And if you find that notion of the College’s “brand” to be distasteful, you are a child. Parents will not pay a quarter million dollars for something with a less-than-amazing reputation.)

1) We did a detailed dive into the rankings last year. Should we revisit? If so, I would need someone to send me the underlying data. See here and here for previous discussions.

2) Kudos to Adam Falk, and the rest of the Williams administration. Maintaining the #1 ranking is important, especially for recruiting students who are less rich, less well-educated and less American. There is no better way to get a poor (but really smart) kid from Los Angeles (or Singapore) to consider Williams than to highlight that we are the best college in the country.

3) Many schools do a lot of suspect/sleazy things to improve their rank. Does Williams? Morty, infamously, capped discussion class size at 19 to ensure that the maximum number of classes met this US News cut-off.

4) There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rankings, similar to this article on the US News law school rankings. If you write such a thesis, hundreds of people around the country will read it.

5) Any comments on changes in the rankings below us?

6) Below the break is a copy of the methodology, saved for the benefit of future historians. Read more

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