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Critical Mass

From abl:

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

“Critical mass” arguments for affirmative action mostly fail:

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

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

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

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

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No Loans

Our friends at Dartblog cover the hypocrisies of “no loan” financial aid.

Please. Don’t make more of this “no loans” thing. It’s very misleading. Princeton is very generous, but even then many of the students take out loans. According to Princeton’s own literature, 18% graduate with debt.

How is that possible? The literature says no loans! Some borrow to fund study abroad or other adventures. Some skip a paying summer job and need to borrow to cover the lost money. There are probably many reasons.

The point is that “no loans” is pretty much a fraud. They still get to make up a number and insist that the kid can afford to pay it. At Princeton, 18% can’t. Remember, it’s their definition of ability to pay, not the kids and not the parents.

And it’s worth noting that we’re just talking about student loans. Parental loans are a completely different ball of wax. No college is making a “no loans” pledge to parents.

The schools are also free to pull a number out of thin air and say this is your expected family contribution. I’m told by a savvy number cruncher that anyone making more than $120k is expected to contribute $60k. Note the $120k is pretax and the $60k is post tax.

As you might imagine, many parents need to borrow from home equity or other sources.

Even at the richest schools, these promises are hollow and some of the most misleading propaganda put out by the college industrial complex.

I used to rail against the College’s ending of its “no loans” financial policy a decade ago. And Williams does continue to spend too little money on students and too much on other stuff. But, former Provost Will Dudley shared* some interesting results a few years ago highlighting that total borrowing by Williams students seemed about the same during the loans and no-loans period. Why? It is unclear but many poorer students come from families with debt, especially expensive credit card debt. Taking out student loans — even if the Williams aid package is so generous you don’t “need” to — and paying off those debts can make perfect sense from the point of view of the entire family’s finances.

*Note that Will, unlike current provost Dukes Love, refused to make those findings public. So, unless you were an insider — a rich and/or engaged alum — you never got to see them.

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Overlap History

From MIT in 1992:

The unprecedented antitrust case had its origins in an investigation begun in 1989 by the Justice Department. The Antitrust Division of the Justice Department reportedly sent civil investigative demands to some 57 colleges, who were asked to submit thousands of pounds of records over many years. In 1989, the last full year of participation in the agreement, 23 colleges attended the annual spring meeting to discuss the relative need of commonly admitted students.

The case was fought by MIT after the eight Ivy League colleges agreed in May, 1991 – while admitting no culpability – to sign a consent decree barring such cooperation for 10 years, unless Congress passes legislation to authorize it.

The civil suit involved an agreement that MIT and the eight Ivy League colleges entered into in the 1950s. The colleges agreed to admit students solely on the basis of merit and distribute their scholarship money solely on the basis of need.

They also agreed to establish methods of determining what the applicants’ family could afford and – in the case of applicants who had overlapping offers of admission from more than one of the colleges – to discuss significant differences in the colleges’ judgements of the individual students’ financial need.

The biggest beneficiaries to the ending of Overlap were non-rich, highly desirable applicants. On average, middle class African-American students probably benefited more than anyone.

And readers wonder why I am sometimes suspicious of elite colleges . . .

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In Solidarity and in Community

From a faculty source:

> From: “Patterson-Stephens, Shawna”
> Date: July 13, 2018 at 6:21:12 PM GMT+2
> To: WILLIAMS-PERSONNEL@LISTSERV.WILLIAMS.EDU
> Subject: Community Space in Response to Incident at Sawyer Library
> Reply-To: “Patterson-Stephens, Shawna”
>
> Williams Students, Faculty, and Staff,
>
> Recently, printed materials expressing anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Black, and anti-LGBTQIA sentiment were placed in the library stacks of the Sawyer Library.
>
> The Davis Center will host a community space this afternoon (Friday, July 13th) in the Jenness Conference Room from 2:00 pm-5:00 pm in response to these harmful sentiments. We invite you to join us for as long or as little as you’d like, in solidarity and in community.
>
> The DC Staff also invites you to join us in reclaiming our space with messages of affirmation we intend to post throughout campus. These messages, in the form of posters, will be available on the conference room table–feel free to drop by and take one or some for your offices, classrooms, and residential spaces.
>
> ​Yours,
> The Davis Center Staff​

Here are some photos of the students (?) who disrupted (?) the Williamstown July 4th parade and the annual reading of the Founding Documents in Sawyer.

001-070418_williamstown_parade--001

002-070418_williamstown_parade--003

003-070418_williamstown_parade--004

1) I bet that there is some overlap/connection between these protestors and the Davis Center folks organizing this “Response.” In particular, who paid for those nicely printed posters?

2) What would happen to a student/professor who organized “messages of affirmation” to counteract ideas of the July 4th protestors? There are many trolling opportunities available.

3) Please post photos of these “messages of affirmation.” Future historians will thank you!

4) Non-violent protest/speech is at the heart of a free society. I want more messages from both the July 4th protestors and the anonymous white nationalists. Indeed, if Robert Gaudino were still with us, he would be trying to arrange a debate between the two groups. Uncomfortable Learning indeed!

5) Am I wrong to suspect that the Davis Center folks want to silence voices on campus that disagree with them (e.g., Trump supporters suspicious of Muslim immigration) while insisting on their right to disrupt events like the July 4th parade and reading of the Founding Documents?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 5

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 5.

“It remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the 4-to-3 majority.

Some colleges, such as Duke and Bucknell universities, said they would wait to see how the Education Department proceeds in issuing new guidance. Other colleges said they would proceed with diversifying their campuses as the Supreme Court intended.

Melodie Jackson, a Harvard spokeswoman, said the university would “continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years.”

A spokeswoman for the University of Michigan, which won a major Supreme Court case in 2003, suggested that the flagship university would like more freedom to consider race, not less. But it is already constrained by state law. After the case, Michigan voters enacted a constitutional ban on race-conscious college admissions policies.

Where are we headed? Tough to know!

1) Discrimination against Asian-Americans is significant, unpopular and very hard to justify. A Republican Supreme Court is going to find it hard to allow it to continue, at least officially. I suspect that decisions like Fisher v. Texas are in trouble, although any eventual over-turning might be several years out.

2) The Deep State of elite education is not so easily defeated. Affirmative Action — treating applicants differently on the basis of their race — is already illegal in states like California and Michigan and, yet, it still goes on sub rosa.

3) Elite institutions like Harvard are determined and resourceful. Their defense in the current lawsuit is, quite frankly, genius. Harvard creates a personal rating for all applicants. Asian-Americans do much worse on this metric. Once you account for these scores, Harvard (probably!) does not discriminate. And, since those (totally opaque!) scores are under Harvard’s complete control, there is no way to prove that it is discriminating or to stop it from doing so.

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Sawyer Fliers

Forwarded by a faculty member:

From: “Haynes, Leticia”
Date: July 12, 2018 at 6:10:36 PM GMT+2
To: WILLIAMS-PERSONNEL@LISTSERV.WILLIAMS.EDU
Subject: Fliers recently discovered in Sawyer Library

Williams faculty, staff and students,

On Monday, July 9, a faculty member reported finding a large number of copies of a flier in the library stacks. The fliers contain content that is hard to interpret overall, but some of the images and statements are clearly offensive to college values. This was the second such flier found in the library in the past week. Images of both are below.

Flier front

Flier back

1) How are these images “clearly offensive?” I realize that the Confederacy is, in and of itself, offensive to many Ephs but are we really required to erase history? I hope not!

2) How can the “statements” here by offensive? Aren’t they just accurate Bible quotes?

3) What is up with the Star of David?

One nice aspect of these controversies is that they provide an excuse to learn some history. Below, from Wikipedia, is an actual Confederate $500 note.

CSA-T2-$500-1861

I did a reverse image search and came up with these possible sources for the Williams flyer. Earliest reference I can find is this (incomprehensible to me) discussion thread.

4) The third image from the e-mail is, obviously, problematic.

Horizontal flier

The link to a Democracy Now story is perplexing. Democracy Now is a lefty news network, not the usual information source (I assume!) for nativist troublemakers. Is the intent here to heighten the contradictions on the left? I really don’t know.

Back to Haynes’s e-mail:

Independent of content, outside materials may only be distributed on campus with college permission. Leaving the fliers in the stacks was a violation of these rules.

Really? The College has a history of only enforcing rules against those whose politics it dislikes. The student group Uncomfortable Learning was repeatedly hassled about violating “rules” that Williams never enforced against liberal student groups.

I also find this phrasing confusing. Does the College require permission for outside groups to distribute stuff (which seems sensible) or for the distribution of “outside materials”? That seems nuts. If Williams Democrats want to distribute “outside materials” — like a flyer from the Bernie campaign — do they really need “permission?” I doubt it! I suspect that this is just sloppy writing (and thinking?) from the Administration.

Using security footage, and guided by information from the new report, Campus Safety and Security (CSS) isolated pictures of the individuals we believe responsible. By sharing this information with counterparts at nearby schools CSS was able to help police identify one of the people, who, we learned, resides in another state. He is now banned from campus.

Note the subtle spin. Why bother telling us that he resides in “another state” unless they want us to think that he is far, far away and that we don’t need to worry about it? But if that other state is Vermont, then this guy might live closer to campus than Pittsfield!

Meanwhile, CSS received a corroborating report from a witness who had seen the second individual in the Sawyer lobby during the July 4th reading of the founding documents. The individual was carrying an American flag on a short pole, and inserted themselves into a peaceful student protest at the event. A photo of this person is also included below.

July 4 suspect at protest

1) Kudos to Hayes and Klass for their transparency. The more details — like these photos — which they provide to the community, the better.

2) Can anyone parse the symbol on the hat? UPDATE: Thanks to comments below, seems that this is just a standard “FD NY” — New York City Fire Department — hat.

3) I assume that the “peaceful student protest” referred to is those folks dressed in black who marched in the July 4th parade and then went to the reading. Was every single one of them a student? I have my doubts!

If you have seen them, or have other information that may aid in identifying them, please contact Campus Safety and Security at 413-597-4444. Once a person is banned from campus any attempt to return is considered trespassing and the trespasser may be subject to arrest.

We would like to thank CSS, our colleagues at Bennington College, the Williamstown Police Department, and the Williams community for helping protect the inclusive environment the college is committed to upholding.

Sincerely,

Leticia S. E. Haynes, VP for Institutional Diversity and Equity
Steve Klass, VP for Campus Life

1) The reference to Bennington College makes me think that the banned person lives in Vermont. Does anyone know what group he is associated with?

2) Since this is, obviously, not a false flag operation — unlike many recent events on campus — the closest historical analog is probably Mary Jane Hitler.

3) There are many other issues to discuss here. Worth spending more time on?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 4

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 4.

The Trump administration’s moves come with affirmative action at a crossroads. Hard-liners in the Justice and Education Departments are moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity in education. And the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of this month will leave the Supreme Court without its swing vote on affirmative action while allowing President Trump to nominate a justice opposed to policies that for decades have tried to integrate elite educational institutions.

Note the rhetoric:

1) “Hardliners” are people who object to discrimination/quotas against Asian-Americans. Would the New York Times have used that word in 1925 to describe people who objected to Jewish quotas at Harvard?

2) No one is “moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity.” Ken Marcus does not care how Williams measures “diversity.” Williams can measure diversity however it wants! Marcus (and the rest of the Federal Government) object to Williams — as a recipient of federal funds via student loans — treating applicants differently on the basis of their race.

A highly anticipated case is pitting Harvard against Asian-American students who say one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions has systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races. That case is clearly aimed at the Supreme Court.

The Harvard case is fascinating. It goes to trial in October. Should we provide more coverage? Again, it is unclear if Williams (today) discriminates against Asian-Americans the way that Harvard does. But the demographics and other societal changes mean that, unless we start doing so in the future, Williams will be 40% Asian-American a generation from now. I don’t have a problem with that. Do you?

“The whole issue of using race in education is being looked at with a new eye in light of the fact that it’s not just white students being discriminated against, but Asians and others as well,” said Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity. “As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic.”

Indeed. Recall my favorite chart:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

SAT scores are highly correlated with every other aspect of your academic profile: ACT, AP, subject tests, high school grades, teacher recommendations, essay quality, et cetera. Since Asian-Americans make up 50%+ of the highest SAT scorers, they almost are almost certainly 50%+ of the highest ACT, high school transcript, et cetera applicants. Why is Harvard only at 20%? Discrimination. Why is Williams only at 20%? Hard to know! We might discriminate, but, as with Jews almost a 100 years ago, the discrepancy might be caused by applicant preferences.

The key point — and one that smart guys like Roger Clegg and Ken Marcus will focus on — is that discrimination against Asian-Americans is a hard sell. When Marcus was cutting his teeth on affirmative action debates back in the 80s, it was much easier to justify discrimination against white applicants. First, they (being part of the power structure) were not particularly sympathetic victims. Second, their ancestors were plausibly guilty of historical crimes which required restitution. Third, they were such a large majority that a marginal decrease in their numbers did not seem a large price to pay for increased diversity.

I don’t think any of those arguments are going to work in the case of discrimination against Asian-Americans. And once Clegg/Marcus force places like Harvard/Williams to stop discriminating against Asian-Americans, how long will they be able to discriminate against whites?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 3

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 3.

Under Mr. Marcus’s leadership, the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a human rights organization that champions Jewish causes, filed an amicus brief in 2012, the first time the Supreme Court heard Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In the brief, the organization argued that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals, and unhealthy for society at large.”

Is that brief enough to label Marcus as a “vocal opponent” of affirmative action? If so, every (almost) Republican is one. Again, I suspect that a large majority of Americans — including many EphBlog readers? — would agree that “race conscious admission standards are unfair to individuals.” Although perhaps “unfair” is unduly loaded? Williams treats smart applicants differently then dumb applicants, which is either “unfair” or “necessary to achieve our educational goals,” depending on your point of view.

The organization argued that Asian-American students were particularly victimized by race “quotas” that were once used to exclude Jewish people.

This is beyond dispute, at least at places like HYPS. (Again, it is not clear if Williams (meaningfully) discriminates against Asian-Americans in admissions. As in the case of Jews 75 years ago, Williams may not get as many applications (or as high a yield) as HYP do/did.)

As the implications for affirmative action for college admissions play out in court, it is unclear what the decision holds for elementary and secondary schools. New York City is embroiled in a debate about whether to change its entrance standard — currently a single test — for its most prestigious high schools to allow for more black and Latino students.

If NYC wants to cancel its admissions tests for places like Stuyvesant, Ken Marcus won’t care (much). If NYC (or Williams) wants to change its admissions policies, Ken won’t care (much). What he does care about (a lot!) is whether or not, say, African-American and Asian-American applicants are treated the same, either by NYC or by Williams. If they are not, he is now in a position to bring the full weight and power of the Federal Government against NYC/Williams.

Do you have a problem with that? Tough! You (and I am sure that this applies to 90% (99%?) of EphBlog readers) had no problem when the Federal Government was bossing around private institutions (like Bob Jones University) or local/state governments (like the city of Little Rock, Arkansas). And maybe you were right! But, having created the monster to do “good,” don’t be surprised when the monster turns its pitiless gaze toward you . . .

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 2

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 2.

Ms. DeVos has seemed hesitant to wade in on the fate of affirmative action policies, which date back to a 57-year-old executive order by President John F. Kennedy, who recognized systemic and discriminatory disadvantages for women and minorities. The Education Department did not partake in the Justice Department’s formal interest in Harvard’s litigation.

“I think this has been a question before the courts and the courts have opined,” Ms. DeVos told The Associated Press.

But Ms. DeVos’s new head of civil rights, Kenneth L. Marcus, may disagree. A vocal opponent of affirmative action, Mr. Marcus was confirmed last month on a party-line Senate vote, and it was Mr. Marcus who signed Tuesday’s letter.

1) I am not sure if “vocal opponent of affirmative action” is a fair description. Most Republican are against Affirmative Action, at least against the 200+ SAT point gaps that bedevil schools like Williams. Marcus is a Republican, so it is hardly surprising that he is against it. But “vocal” implies that he goes out of his way to write about this topic, speak about it, tweet about it and so on. Does he? Not that I have seen.

2) Note how the rhetoric is designed to make the reader dislike Marcus. (Being in favor of something is a more positive-sounding description that being an opponent.) There is a reason that the Times does not describe Marcus as a “strong proponent of color-blind policies” or as someone who “wants colleges to judge applicants on a basis other than the color of their skin.” A “vocal opponent” is weird, strange, backward.

3) Nowhere in the article does it mention how popular Marcus’s views are. A clear majority of Americans are against Affirmative Action as it is currently practiced at places like Williams. Popularity does not mean, of course, that Marcus is right, but shielding its readers from these unpleasant facts does them a disservice. Or maybe they like the cocoon?

4) Anyone have any Marcus stories from his Williams days?

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Marcus ’88 Moves on Racial Issues, 1

Ken Marcus ’88 is the (recently confirmed) Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, a position which places him at the center of the debate about racial diversity in higher education. Marcus, and his colleagues in the Justice Department, have started the process of getting rid of racial preferences. Let’s spend a week discussing their efforts. Day 1.

From The New York Times:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, signaling that the administration will champion race-blind admissions standards.

In a joint letter, the Education and Justice Departments announced that they had rescinded seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action, which, the departments said, “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

1) Marcus will be at the center of the debate over affirmative action at places like Williams for the next 2 (or 6?!?) years. Very convenient for EphBlog!

2) Say what you will about Trump’s focus/competence/ideology, but, in this part of the Federal Government at least, we are getting serious Republican/conservative policy-making, good and hard. You may dislike Marcus’s ideology, but he is very, very smart. He, and his peers at Justice, are going to do everything in their power to make affirmative action disappear. Underestimate them at your peril.

3) One of my favorite post-election memes illustrates the problem that Democrats/liberals face:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 1.53.22 PM

If the Federal Government were less powerful, then Marcus would not be able to change admissions policy at places like Williams. (And that would certainly be my preference! I think that the Federal Government should leave private institutions like Williams alone.) But my Democratic/progressive/liberal friends want a powerful Federal Government, one with the ability to tell everyone else how to run their affairs. Be careful what you wish for!

Entire New York Times article below:

Read more

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R versus Python

Professor Phoebe Cohen tweets:

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 10.43.56 AM

Language wars are boring, but Cohen is probably better off spending time improving her R rather than learning Python.

1) Cohen already knows R. This fixed investment will make further study more productive.

2) Cohen uses statistics/programming as a minor part of her research. She devotes the vast majority of time to field and laboratory work. So, it makes no sense for her to get good at two languages.

3) The entire Statistics Department at Williams uses R. This means that Cohen’s students are highly likely to know some R. She also has a set of colleagues who are R experts and likely willing to answer her questions.

4) R can do everything (that Cohen cares about) that Python can do, and can generally do it more easily, especially graphics. (If Cohen’s work were more computational, with lots of simulation, the balance might shift the other way.)

Contrary opinions?

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Why Not Accept These Students?

An example of the sort of AR1 student that Williams currently rejects:

SAT: 1540 (Math 790, Reading 750) Subjects: Math II 800, Chem 720
ACT: 35 (Math 35, Reading 34, English 35, Science 35)
AP: Calc. BC 5/5, Chem 5, Bio 4; Physics I/II, Lit, Lang, and Stats to be taken
~4.2 weighted GPA, top of the class
Honors track, taking all offered AP courses at my school
ECs mostly performance (theatre, speech/debate, band) and community service

I was sort of surprised by the result, but I guess I just don’t fit their class image. It’s ok because I’m in at Princeton, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Carleton, Grinnell, and Macalester.

There are scores (hundreds?) of similar examples. Why reject applicants like this?

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Reading the Declaration

One of my favorite Williams summer traditions:

The Chapin Library of rare books at Williams College will host the annual July 4 reading of the Declaration of Independence by actors from the Williamstown Theatre Festival at 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Actors will read from the second floor outside balcony of Sawyer Library. Visitors should gather on the library quad west of Sawyer Library and between Schapiro and Hollander halls. In case of inclement weather, the event will take place inside Sawyer Library.

Since 1987, Williams College and the Williamstown Theatre Festival have made it an annual tradition to celebrate Independence Day by reading the Declaration of Independence, the British reply of September 1776, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. New this year will be a selection from “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July,” a speech by Frederick Douglass, which will be read an actor.

The annual event happens this afternoon. If you attend, send us some photos!

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Dress for Success

We noted this story a decade ago, but it came up again at the graduation ceremonies for the University of Florida:

The tradition of gowns faded between the Revolution and the Civil War but returned for commencement ceremonies as universities transitioned from elitist to public institutions in the latter half of the 19th century, including here at UF.

This renaissance was aided by a single enterprising graduate of Williams College named Gardner Cottrell Leonard [class of 1887].

Gardner either didn’t get to wear a gown, or didn’t like the one he did wear, at his Williams commencement ceremony in 1887.

Subsequently he visited England to study regalia and began writing articles and speaking about it in the U.S.

In fact, we owe the various colors for the disciplinesin tassels and hoods entirely to Gardner’s creativity.

He chose green for medicine, for example, because it reminded him of the color of herbs used in healing.

Many of Gardner’s ideas were codified in the 1896 Intercollegiate Code of Academic Costume, the basis for commencement regalia to this very day.

Why do Amherst seniors look stylish on graduation day? Because they were dressed by an Eph!

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How Wealthy is Williams?

From our friends at Dartblog comes this report (pdf) about college/university wealth. Key table:

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 7.33.30 AM

Interesting stuff!

1) Pomona, Amherst and Swarthmore have the wealth to compete more effectively with us, mainly by hiring more faculty. Will they?

2) Does this data fully reflect the fact that Amherst has been increasing its student body? I don’t think so. Latest first year class at Amherst was 470, which which generates a four year student body of 1880. This number would bring down the endowment per student down a bit.

3) I seem to recall that we used to be further ahead of Amherst/Swarthmore. True? What happened?

4) The meaning of “student” — undergraduate, Ph.D., business, law, etc — varies significantly across institutions, so it is hard to compare liberal arts colleges with places like Princeton and Harvard.

Should I spend a week on this topic?

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Chicago Drops SAT, 5

The University of Chicago no longer requires the SAT/ACT. More background here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for a week. Day 5.

What will Williams do?

Robert Schaeffer of FairTest: the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, predicted others would follow Chicago’s decision. He said Chicago’s decision was “potentially a huge ‘ice-breaker’ for ultraselective institutions. Several other schools in this category are re-examining their admissions exam requirements but have been hesitant to go first.”

Schaeffer is a longtime critic of the SAT.

1) Williams is “conservative,” compared to its elite peers, so, if any school follows Chicago’s lead, it won’t be us. We also don’t have a history of chasing PC fads like this one. Might Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 be cut from different cloth than her predecessors like Dick Nesbitt ’74, Tom Parker ’69 and Phil Smith ’58? Might new President Maud Mandel want to make a splash? Perhaps. But EphBlog bets the other way.

2) Williams should continue to use the SAT/ACT, along with other standardized tests like the SAT subject tests, the APs, the international baccalaureates and so on. They work! They aren’t perfect. But students who score well on these tests do, on average, much better than students who score poorly.

3) Other elite schools are unlikely to follow Chicago’s lead, precisely because they are so committed to admitting weaker students. It’s a paradox, but true!

If you are happy to only take the students with strong high school transcripts, your job is easy. There are thousands of students who go to elite high schools, both public (any high school in a rich town, exam schools like Stuyvesant) or private (Andover, Exeter, Raffles). Just take the ones at the top. The problem, alas, is that such students are much less likely to have the characteristics you also want: elite athlete, poor/uneducated parents and/or black/Hispanic. These students are more likely to be found at weaker high schools, places where the transcript is hard to evaluate. SAT/ACT scores are most valuable for choosing among those students.

You can argue (incorrectly!) that the SAT/ACT is biased against, say, low income applicants relative to high income applicants. (Perhaps it is!) But, once you have made the macro decision to have 20% (or whatever) of you class consistent of such students, you should pick the ones with the highest scores (and best grades). They are much more likely to do better, at either Williams or Chicago.

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Chicago Drops SAT, 4

The University of Chicago no longer requires the SAT/ACT. More background here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for a week. Day 4.

James G. Nondorf is either a knave or a fool.

In addition, the university announced a new program in which it will invite students to submit a two-minute video introduction of themselves. And the university will allow self-submission of transcripts to minimize the need for students to pay fees.

“Today, many underresourced and underrepresented students, families and school advisers perceive top-ranked colleges as inaccessible if students do not have the means to help them stand out in the application process,” said James G. Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions at Chicago. He added that UChicago Empower, as the initiatives are collectively being called, “levels the playing field, allowing first-generation and low-income students to use technology and other resources to present themselves as well as any other college applicant. We want students to understand the application does not define you — you define the application.”

“You define the application”?!? What sort of gibberish is that?

Nondorf strikes me as a hustling self-promoter, using the resources of Chicago to promote his own brand. Or he’s just stupid:

Many colleges have found that students’ transcripts — their high-school grades and rigor of courses — are the most-valuable predictors of future performance. “The transcript tells such a powerful story for us,” Nondorf said. “We went from department to department to see who the stars were. Does testing tell us who’s going to be the best art historian? The answer is No.”

Restricted range, anyone? Consider height in basketball. Being tall is (obviously!) a huge advantage in basketball, at every level of the game. But, within each level, height is poorly correlated with success because everyone at that level is tall. In the NBA, for example, there is very little (any?) correlation between height and salary. The range of height in the NBA is too narrow to fully see the importance of height to success.

The same applies to the importance of SAT/ACT scores at Chicago. If 25% of Chicago students score above 1550, then SAT scores will not be a good predictor of the best student in each department, just like height is a bad predictor of who is the best player on each NBA team.

Going forward, I predict that students who did not submit their scores to Chicago when applying will almost never “be the best art historian.”

But the most annoying aspect of Nondorf’s changes is the option — which many students will consider to be a requirement — for submitting a two minute video.

1) As if the college application process is not stressful enough already!

2) As if college consultants — and the college counselors at elite high schools — will not quickly game this process, helping their clients/students produce amazing videos, especially ones that appear to be done solely by the student.

3) As if a video is a useful admissions tool. There is a reason why the vast majority of elite colleges no longer use interviews, either at all (like Williams) or as any part of their decision-making (Harvard). Interviews don’t work!

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Chicago Drops SAT, 3

The University of Chicago no longer requires the SAT/ACT. More background here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for a week. Day 3.

Jeff Rubel ’18 tweets:

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Rubel is an EphBlog favorite and (normally!) sophisticated observer. How can he be so naive to think that this is all about “increasing accessibility?”

1) Chicago could just put much less weight on the SAT/ACT, going so far as to accept dozens of students with very low scores. Its current reasoning is similar to the tripe from Harvard/Princeton a decade ago about how early admissions provided an unfair advantage to rich kids. It may have, but the only reason for that was Harvard/Princeton’s own policies! They could have kept early admissions and just raised the standards. A simple way to tell if policy X is pointless virtue-signaling is to see if there was an easy way to accomplish the same thing without the fancy press release.

2) Chicago could just stop accepting the SAT/ACT.

Chicago officials analyzed plenty of internal data, Nondorf explained. “You spend a lot of time looking at students who don’t do well,” he said. What parts of their applications might have indicated early on that they would struggle? “It certainly wasn’t testing,” Nondorf said.

So why are you even accepting SAT/ACT scores at all? If scores have no power in predicting who will do well at Chicago, if they are no more valid than horoscopes, then you should not accept them in the first place.

That Chicago still accepts (and uses!) SAT/ACT scores for admissions tells me that, in fact, they are predictive (which we already know) of college performance.

3) Rubel could defend Chicago by claiming that, by not requiring the SAT/ACT, they allow students who have not taken them to apply. But that is nonsense since such students, if they want to attend an elite school, will (almost) have to take the SAT/ACT since they can’t only apply to Chicago. They might (likely will!) get rejected. Chicago will get virtually no applications from students who haven’t taken the SAT/ACT.

4) Rubel most likely means to argue that, by allowing some students to not submit scores, Chicago is “increasing accessibility” because it will end up admitting a different class than it would have under its previous policy. And that is true! But it did not need to stop accepting the SAT/ACT to achieve that goal. It could have just put less weight on it, even zero weight for certain types of students.

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Chicago Drops SAT, 2

The University of Chicago no longer requires the SAT/ACT. More background here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for a week. Day 1.

Several experts predicted that other top universities might now reconsider testing requirements.

1) I doubt it!

2) Reporter Scott Jaschik does a nice job, but the “experts” he tends to rely on are not nearly cynical/skeptical enough for my tastes.

3) Look at history of virtue-signally by elite colleges. The most relevant example was Harvard’s decision in 2006 to end early admissions. We noted that this was PC nonsense and we predicted, at the time, that Harvard would reverse the decision as soon as it became obvious how harmful it was to recruiting the best students. And, sure enough, that was what Harvard did.

When push comes to shove, elite colleges won’t allow PC gestures to meaningfully impact their student quality.

Prediction: The University of Chicago is treating us all to a real world example of the power of adverse selection. As long as other schools use SAT/ACT scores, they will know to reject the student with a tough-to-evaluate high school transcript but low scores. Chicago won’t have that option (assuming it really implements the policy). Such students will, on average, not send in their scores. Chicago will be more likely to admit them and, perhaps even worse, yield them once they are accepted (since they won’t be accepted at any other elite school).

4) How long with the experiment last? Tough to say. Harvard/Princeton could quickly see that a lack of early decision was causing them to lose lots of highly desirable applicants to their competitors. Chicago will not get such quick feedback. Indeed, it will be hard to see the drop in student quality quickly. In fact, the professors in the tougher majors — the ones most likely (?) to complain about a drop in student quality — are the least likely to notice it because weaker students will gravitate toward easier courses/majors.

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Chicago Drops SAT, 1

The University of Chicago no longer requires the SAT/ACT. More background here, here, here and here. Let’s discuss for a week. Day 1.

The University of Chicago on Thursday morning announced that it was dropping the requirement that all undergraduate applicants submit SAT or ACT scores.

Hundreds of colleges — including elite liberal arts colleges — have stopped requiring the SAT or ACT. But Chicago’s move is the first by one of the very top research universities in the country. And the move is striking coming from an institution, known for its academic rigor, that has had no difficulty attracting top applicants.

For the class that enrolled in September 2017, the university received 27,694 applicants and admitted 2,419. The middle 50 percent of the range of SAT scores of admitted applicants was 1460 to 1550.

1) Surprising news! Elite schools almost always require the SAT/ACT because standardized test scores are a useful — albeit not perfect — tool for forecasting performance in college. This is all the more true when considering applicants from below-average high schools. An applicant being valedictorian in his 50 student senior class in Nowhere, Iowa tells you little. Such an applicant with a 1,600 SAT (math + verbal) tells you a lot.

2) The news is all the more surprising coming from Chicago. If you told me that a top college/university had dropped the SAT/ACT and asked me to predict which one, Chicago would have been about my last guess.

First, it is famously “conservative,” at least in the context of elite education, and (in)famous for mocking the politically correct pieties of its peers: safe spaces, trigger warnings, etc. Although the use of standardized testing is not exactly a political issue, I definitely associate it with more liberal/progressive schools. If forced to guess, I would have gone with Brown or Swarthmore.

Second, Chicago makes many fewer concessions to non-academic criteria than other elite schools, especially when it comes to athletic recruitment. Schools like Williams already concede that the SAT/ACT are not that important, which is why the bottom 1/4 of the class is allowed to have such low scores. The middle 50% range of SAT scores at Williams is (pdf) 1400 to 1570 (approximately). The top of the Williams distribution is higher but we are willing to go much lower in order to get students we want.

3) This decision is similar to how Williams, and many other elite schools, dropped the SAT subject test requirements a few years ago. I was indifferent to that change because, if you already know a student’s high school transcript and SAT/ACT scores and AP scores, it is plausible that the marginal information you gain from knowing the SAT II scores is close to zero.

This case is trickier because, without any standardized test scores, it is very hard to determine the quality of applicants from non-feeder high schools.

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Williamstown Remembrances

A wonderful round-table of reminisces about Williamstown.

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Kornell on Professor Evaluation

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Good thing that Kornell has tenure! This is not the sort of thinking that his colleagues, like Professor Phoebe Cohen, would find . . . uh . . . congenial.

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Nimetz ’60 Names a Country

From The New York Times:

Macedonia agreed to change its name to resolve a decades-old dispute with Greece, the two countries said on Tuesday, and Greece said it would drop its objection to the neighboring country’s entry into the European Union and NATO if the changes are formally adopted.

Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said the country’s new name will be Severna Makedonija or Republic of North Macedonia. Greece had long opposed the name “Macedonia,” saying it implied territorial aspirations over a northern Greek region of the same name.

Matthew Nimetz [’60], the United Nations mediator in the dispute for more than 25 years, also welcomed the deal.

“I have no doubt this agreement will lead to a period of enhanced relations between the two neighboring countries and especially between their people,” he said.

We discussed Nimetz’s efforts 12 years ago. Thanks to reader David H.T. Kane ’58 for the tip, then and now.

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How Faculty Can Change Williams

A conversation with professor at reunion leads to this post about how faculty — even a single faculty member — can create significant change at Williams. Most of this advice applies to any topic, but, for concreteness, let’s assume a professor who is concerned about the decline of faculty governance at Williams and the rise of administrator numbers/power/salaries.

First, educate yourself on the topic. The Provost’s Office produced this wonderful report (pdf) on college staffing. Read it more than once. See EphBlog’s 9 (!) part series of faculty governance: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Talk to some retired faculty members (e.g., Frank Oakley) about how the College used to be run. If you want to change policy about topic X, then you need to be as well-informed about X as anyone at Williams.

One tidbit on the history of faculty governance: Just 25 years ago, there were two assistant provosts, both members of the faculty. They assisted the provost in all her duties. (One of those assistants was Morty Schapiro!) There is no reason why the faculty could not be much more powerful than they are, no reason why Williams could not revert back to arrangements of that era.

Second, schedule an appointment with Maud Mandel. She starts in two weeks and will be eager to chat with faculty. The goal for this meeting is not to harangue her with your views. Instead, find out what she thinks! Is she concerned with the growth of administrative power? Did she witness similar trends at Brown? What does she think the correct ratio is of faculty to administrator hiring? And so on. At some point, ask her: “Interesting point, Maud! Would you mind if I followed up with Dukes Love and his folks in the Provost’s Office to gather more information?” She will probably encourage you to do so. And getting that permission/encourage was your goal from this meeting.

Third, meet with Dukes Love or Chris Winters ’95 or someone else in the Provost’s Office, ideally whoever was the lead person on the Staffing Report. Again, your goal is not to harangue them with your views. Be realistic! They don’t really care what you think. You are just one of the 250+ faculty members they have to deal with. Instead, your goal is to get access to their data on staffing, or at least as much of it as they will share. It is one thing to read their report. It is another to have a copy of their Excel spreadsheets, to be able to work with the raw data that they work with. The rules are such that they can’t share with you the salaries of individuals, obviously, but they can share anything else. And since you seem so reasonable — and since Maud Mandel encouraged your efforts, as you casually mentioned to them — they might be quite accommodating. Data is power and, the more you have, the more likely to are to accomplish something.

Four, write a 5 page report, expressing your concerns. Again, your goal is not to harangue readers with your views, much less with your proposed solutions. Instead, you are highlighting key facts. Of the 20 highest paid people at Williams, 18 used to be faculty, now only 10 are. The ratio of spending on faculty versus administrator salaries used to be 5:1 now it is only 2:1. There used to be 7 faculty for every administrator, and now there are only 3. Much of this information is already in the staffing report, but much is not. (And the staffing report pulls a few fast ones as well. Should I spend a week going through it?) The goal of the report is to highlight that things have changed dramatically in the last 20 years and that this topic merits further exploration.

Five, gather faculty support. Most faculty agree with you that the Administration has grown too big and too powerful. Show them your report. Get their feedback. Ask them if they would be willing to join you in working on this problem. Present the report to various committees, perhaps all the way up to a full faculty meeting. Key at this stage is to identify your core supporters, the 5 (10? 30?) faculty members who are willing to work hard on this topic, even if it means going against the College Administration.

Six, start thinking about goals. What, precisely, do you want to accomplish? What policy change would make Williams better off 10 or 50 years from now? This is not about an individual administrator or even a class of positions. My recommendation is that you want a non-faculty net-hiring pause of 10 years. You certainly don’t want anyone to be fired. Current Williams administrators are, overwhelmingly, good people, working hard to make the College better. You just want to bring Williams back “in balance,” to where it was 20 years ago. Since many people leave the College each year, the Administration would still have a great deal of flexibility in terms of shifting resources around. But, right now, Williams has 200 (?) administrators. That is enough. Other plausible policy changes include a (more draconian) hiring freeze which would, over time, decrease the administrative bloat at Williams. Or a freeze on total spending on administrators.

Seven, lobby to create a committee. Major changes at Williams come via two mechanisms — presidential fiat (Falk’s alignment) or major committees (the end of fraternities, the decrease in admission preferences for athletes, neighborhood housing). You want President Mandel to form a committee — preferably faculty only, but maybe to also include students and alumni — charged with examining administration growth at Williams. You would not presume to demand that this committee come to a specific conclusion. Instead, your only point is that there are few more important issues to Williams over the next 100 years than the role of faculty in college governance. Therefore, we need a committee to examine this topic.

Eight, keep Mandel/Love/Buell informed as you proceed. Perhaps one or more of them might be an ally! You never know. At the very least, keeping them informed is probably politically wise since only they can create the committee. You just want to maneuver them into situation in which, from their point of view, giving you your committee is the best option.

That is enough for today! More advice available, as requested.

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Father’s Day

Joe Thorndike ’88 writes about his father’s book about the Atlantic seaboard.

I was present for a lot of that first-hand research, especially in Connecticut, where I grew up, and on Cape Cod, where I visited my father frequently during the last 25 years of his life. I also managed to tag along for brief trips to Maine and Florida.

But for every trip I took, there were dozens that I skipped. Occasionally, my father would ask me — in his reserved, taciturn New England way — if I wanted to come along. But like many adult children of aging parents, I found reasons to say no.

Apparently I was busy, but in retrospect, I can’t imagine with what. My father has been dead for more than a decade, but I still regret, almost daily, the many trips I didn’t take.

Take trips with your father, every chance you get.

Still looking for a Father’s Day gift? EphBlog recommends Aidan’s Way by Professor Sam Crane. Excerpts here. More from an Amazon review:

Every now and then a book comes along that wakes us out of our drab routine lives and makes us reevaluate essential questions: what is important? Am I doing something worthwhile with my life? What is life’s meaning? Trite as it may sound, “Aidan’s Way” does just that, but in a way that is subtle and avoids self-indulgent breast-beating. At its core, “Aidan’s Way” is a resounding affirmation of life. Sam and Maureen Crane are the parents of Aidan, who is profoundly retarded mentally–he cannot walk, talk or see. At every turn, they face the possibility that he may die. Pneumonia assaults his lungs and grand mal seizures force him to rely on a feeding tube for sustenance. Adversaries come in human guise as well, with the Cranes heroically combating outrageous abuses by their HMO, doctors stereotyping Aidan as “one of THOSE kids,” and a heartbreaking moment of frustration when an indecisive nurse fails to administer a drug in time to stop Aidan’s seizures from permanently damaging his already fragile brain. There are heroes, too — a doctor with cerebral palsy who doggedly probes the causes of Aidan’s condition while others write him off, a younger sister who brings hope and joy to the family, and countless therapists, journalists, and teachers. Aidan touches hundreds of people.

Indeed. Sadly, Aidan is no longer with us, except in spirit.

Happy Father’s Day to all of Eph Dad readers, including to the loyalest reader of all:

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Provost Presentation, 5

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 5.

If your provost is an economist, his first instinct will to draw budget constraints. And so we get:

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1) If we fix our financial aid spending at its current level, then we can only slide up and down the curve on which the purple dot currently sits. If we want to give more aid to currently aided students, then we need to reduce the percentage who receive financial aid in the first place.

2) If we increase the financial aid budget, then we can work with a new budget curve, up-and-to-the-left of where we currently are.

3) Biggest surprise of the entire presentation is how “cheap” it would be to become as “generous” as Princeton. It looks like just $4 million of extra spending would allow us to match them. That isn’t much! There are 1,000 or so students who get no financial aid. Imagine that we raised the price of Williams from $67,000 to $71,000. There is your $4 million right there! EphBlog votes Yes!

4) However, the central problem with this presentation, indeed with almost all presentations at Williams, is its refusal to grapple with the key issue: the quality of the student body. I assume (hope!) that such presentations are created and presented to the trustees, that the people who run Williams worry about us maintaining our status as the #1 liberal arts college in the world, and that the key to that status is the academic quality of each new incoming class of first years. When will Dukes Love share that analysis with us?

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Provost Presentation, 4

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 4.

This is the most interesting and original slide in the presentation:

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1) Although not mentioned explicitly, this data probably comes from COFHE. It is a shame that COFHE is so secretive. There should be much more transparency among non-profits in general and in higher education specifically.

2) Each dot is a peer school. Williams is the big purple dot. The axes highlight the two major choices that elite colleges face in terms of financial aid:

  • What percentage of students should we aid? This is the y-axis. Williams, relative to its peer group, is about average. We give financial aid to about 50% of all students, a number that has been fairly stable (page 9 of the pdf) for more than a decade. Note that this percentage, alone, is a poor guide to how generous (or economically) diverse a school really is. Imagine a school that gives almost every student $100, even those who come from millionaire families. Such a school would have a high percentage of aided students, without giving much aid.
  • How much do aided students pay on average? This is the x-axis. This measures catches those schools who try to game the system, as above. (Note the two outlier dots at the top of the chart in the center. Which schools are these? Maybe Wash U? I would guess Emory, except that Emory is not a part of COFHE.) Williams does very well (?) on this measure. We charge aided students less than all but 2 or 3 other schools. This metric can, in isolation, be gamed by only aiding a handful of students but giving each of them free rides.

3) By combining the two measures, this chart does an elegant job of highlighting the schools that are truly generous. Kudos to Provost Love and his team! The more up-and-to-the-left you are, the more generous you are to more students. (Of course, this is really just a measure of how rich a school is. The people who run elite schools are very similar in their ideological preferences. They vary in the wealth of the institutions they control.)

4) Who are the two schools clearly more generous than Williams, i.e., the two dots above-and-to-our-left? Presumably Princeton and either Harvard or Yale. (I am not sure how Stanford could be included in this analysis given all of its athletic scholarships.)

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Provost Presentation, 3

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 3.

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1) This is the ugliest graphic I have ever seen in a Williams presentation. Eph (honorary degree in 2000) Edward Tufte would say:

  • Be consistent with your x-axes across the presentation. This (using academic years like 2016/17) is the third different choice you have made. Best is probably using “2018” to mean values for the 2017/2018 academic year. Also, there is no need to show every year. Doing so is too busy. Every 5th year, plus the start and end years, would be fine.
  • Don’t show regression models and summary statistics. How many people in your audience will know what R2 = 0.9138 means? Will you have time to explain it? Should you spend your/their valuable time trying to teach your audience about linear models?
  • If you insist on showing nonsense, then at least show a sensible number of significant digits for your nonsense. R2 = 0.91 would be more sensible, perhaps even R2 = 0.9.
  • Think harder about the substance of what you are trying to convey. Would even a statistically sophisticated reader care about the exact values of R2, much less for the values of the intercept from your linear regression? No! Your main (only?) point is about the slopes. And that is an interesting point! Including all the other statistical arcana hides the interesting facts you have discovered.
  • The purple/gold bars at either side of the graphic are very hard to interpret. I realize that you can explain them on the fly, but the need for explanation is often the sign of poor graphics.

2) Your key point is that Williams sticker price has gone up about 4 times faster than median income but only half as fast as 95th percentile income. Good stuff! And worth thinking about. This is why the regression lines are interesting, not because of the intercept for the R2‘s. But the exact coefficient values don’t really matter. All that you (and your audience) care about are relative magnitudes. So, perhaps better would be to just show a line graph of these two ratios directly. Graph the ratio of family income (median and 95th) to the Williams sticker price. That would make clear that former in falling very fast, i.e., that the cost of Williams has gone from a smallish portion of median family income to almost equal to it. (The ratio has fallen from about 3 to close to 1.) The ratio has also fallen for the 95th percentile but, in this case, the drop has been much less, from about 6 to 3. (You could also present this in percentage terms: The cost of Williams has gone from 30% (15%) of the median (95th percentile) family income up to 95% (26%).

3) Indeed, the best method would be to have two slides. The first shows the raw line graphs, so that people can see the actual numbers. You say a few words about how, yes, the price of Williams has increased. (Make a joke about the class of 1988’s class song with refrain “Sixty thou to live with cows,” the punch line being that this was the 4 year cost 30 years ago.) But the only people who pay full freight have seen their incomes increase as well. (Also make a few remarks about stagnation for the median family.) Then, next slide, show the ratios. People like more slides rather than fewer.

4) Math quiz for attentive readers: If family incomes at the 95th percentile have gone up twice as fast as the Williams sticker price, then how could the sticker price as a percentage of 95th percentile family income also increased from 15% to 26%?

5) All these numbers reinforce my claim that Williams pricing strategy, like that of other elite schools, is sensible. We are selling a luxury good to rich people. They are not deterred by price. In fact, they often (and not incorrectly!) view price as a signal of quality. We should continue to raise prices at a fast rate while, simultaneously, offering extensive financial aid to non-rich admitted students. Relevant New York Times analysis here. Worth spending time on?

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Provost Presentation, 2

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 2.

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This is a highly misleading graphic. It suggests that Williams is much more socio-economically diverse today than it was in 2005. This is untrue! (Note that I am not accusing Love of being purposely misleading. EphBlog loves Provost Love! I suspect that he has too poor (?) an opinion of his audience to confront them with the full richness of the data he has on this topic.)

1) Show us more data! Although it is useful to see the percentage of Pell Grants, Williams has, easily accessible, much more data on socio-economic diversity. If you really want to inform the audience, share as much of the data as you (easily) can.

2) Start with the percentage of each class that is “Socio-Ec 1,” also known as SEC1. Recall that, for decades, Williams has been tracking socio-economic diversity by tagging every applicant’s status as SEC1 if a) neither parent has a BA and b) the student applies for financial aid. This may not be the best measure of economic diversity, but it is the one that Love has the most data for and the one that has had the most impact on admissions. Alas, this time series won’t show nearly as happy a story as the one on Pell Grants, but Love owes his audience the whole truth.

3) Show a line graph of inflation-adjusted Eph family incomes for a couple of places in the income distribution. Williams has great data on family income, again going back decades, for all students who apply for financial aid. So, we know the 100th, 200th, 500th poorest families (out of 2,000) each year. Show us that data.

3) This five part series on Pell Grants (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) from last fall is useful background.

4) Recall that Pell grant percentages of have been increasing for reasons unrelated to changes in the socio-economic diversity of the student body.

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

The same is almost certainly true at Williams.

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Provost Presentation, 1

Provost Dukes Love gave a presentation (pdf) on “Access and Affordability in Higher Education” at the Alumni Leadership weekend in May. Thanks to popular demand, we will spend this week going through some highlights. Background reading: this 2016 overview of similar material from the previous provost, Will Dudley ’89, and our 2017 series about the Equality of Opportunity project. Day 1.

Although dual y-axis charts are evil, this one provides some useful time series.

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Like all of Gaul, the last 60 years of applications to Williams can be divided into three parts. First, we have the single sex era, with 1,000 to 2,000 applications and an impressive yield of over 50%. Second, the initial 30 years of co-education, with applications mostly stable between 4,000 and 5,000. Third, the current era, with much higher raw application numbers, stable yield and falling admission rates. Comments:

1) Did Williams really yield around 65% in the mid-1960s? That seems implausible. Williams has been losing out to Harvard/Yale/Princeton for decades. I doubt that the 60s were much different. Perhaps Williams used more early decision? Perhaps there was more information sharing, allowing Williams to reject students who it knew would turn it down?

2) The shown yield rate is highly misleading. Students admitted early decision should not be included. They have no (meaningful) choice so it makes no sense to include them in a yield calculation. (Doing so also makes it harder to compare our yield with our competitors who don’t use early decision.) Yield should be measured only from the regular decision admittees. Doing this leaves our yield closer to 30%.

3) Stacked bar charts are not very helpful, especially with this color scheme. (Who can see the change in class size in the light green at the bottom?) Line graphs would be better. A better design for the same data:

  • Three separate panels, stacked on top of each other, each with the same x-axis. All feature line graphs.
  • The x-axis should be academic years, not class years. We want to know how many people applied to Williams in the fall of 2017. Telling us class year just forces us to do math in our heads.
  • The top panel should be raw applications. This is where the process starts. In addition to the raw numbers, we should have some shading or other indication of major changes like the start of co-education or the first time Common Ap usage was above 500. Even better would be to show multiple line graphs which broke total applications into a couple of different categories, like domestic versus international.
  • The second panel should be line graphs of admitted and enrolled students. Since the y-axis range would be much narrower than panel 1, we could easily see the increase in the size of the college (doubling with co-education and then increasing by another 10% since the 80s). Ideally, this panel would also include the number of students admitted early decision.
  • The third panel would combine the information from the top two to show us line graphs of percentage admitted and percentage yielded.
  • Throughout the three panels, we should see information associated with changes in the process. For example, I have a vague memory of applications rising/falling depending on how specific the supplemental essay was.
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