After picking up the latest issue of the Record, I found that it lacked weight. And this time it wasn’t merely in its content. It seems that our proud publication is wilting away and losing pages. Since I just finished a 54-page chapter of my thesis, I feel especially qualified to make it grow again. After all, someone has to prevent the further senseless preservation of all the forests that dodged the chainsaw due to the shrinkage of the previous issue.
Basically, as a nearly graduating senior, my interest in the college community is waning. The intrusions of law enforcement upon our peaceful alcoholism no longer evoke the same sentiments of outrage that prompted me to write my first piece for the Record way back when, since I have already escaped the peculiar situation of potentially being required to fight and die for my country while being denied basic recreational privileges. The monkeying around with the housing draw that will only result in more intra-house conflict is merely amusing now that the victims of our community building projects are hapless youngsters and not myself.
However, I still have a burning curiosity about my college. Sometimes it involves things in the past that are no longer of much consequence. For instance, it would be interesting to know exactly why Hank Payne was fired. It must have been something really heinous, since he got the boot not once, but twice, in the original dismissal (apparently, the students are the only ones under the misapprehension that his departure was really voluntary), and subsequently in not being able to even finish out this academic year. So even though he seemed like a nice guy to me, maybe he deserved it. But I’d just like to know what kind of backroom intrigue can get our presidents canned. But perhaps we would want to move on to a more interesting query. Here’s one that’s still a little relevant: is anyone making money off the College Council bus shuttle service? I’ve heard rumors that it is a more profitable business than it looks to be.
But the one question whose impact potentially extends beyond the fate of a red-haired historian or a few bucks spent by those few of us lacking SUVs is admissions policy. I noticed that the faculty at Amherst got their admissions criteria revised recently, so I figured that if we knew a little more, maybe we’d revise ours as well. After all, it’s something that impacts people at all levels of the college — faculty, administrators and students. I got into this college and was blessed by having intelligent and caring people surround me, so I just want to know what the standards and results of our admissions policy are for the sake of curiosity. Others who are staying around may have a different reason.
So for starters, I’d like to know whether our athletes are really all that much more brilliant that those at Amherst. Just a simple correlation between having been recruited by a coach and academic performance would do to sate my curiosity. But now that I think about it, it would be interesting to find out whether legacies are doing disproportionately poorly – after all, they probably got an extra boost getting in because of their over-privileged relatives. And while we’re at it, we can examine whether the institutional racism of our admissions office generally admits under-qualified male Caucasian students who are clearly overmatched and do poorly in classes. Would those general statistics be available? Not to me, they wouldn’t.
I don’t want to come off as a conspiracy theorist, but there are clearly certain things which the administration considers too sensitive to be known by the general public. Perhaps they are right, and once the seamy underbelly of the college is exposed, we will all be less happy. But I’m departing, so the burden of living with the knowledge of how things are really run will be placed on the same long-suffering underclassmen that have already lost their faith in security’s friendliness and the privilege of living next to drunken slobs (or wet-blanket geeks) only if they choose to do so.
If the next generation of Williams students can handle getting arrested for something as innocuous as a cocktail at Mezze, there might be a few good men (and women) among them who can not only handle the truth but demand it. Until then, I can only speak in the name of my intellectual curiosity. But there are others who share that curiosity, and they’re not just students. If the faculty at Amherst takes an active role in demanding the truth about admission policies, then perhaps our professors are merely waiting for a spark to ignite their burning desire for knowledge. I’m sure I could rustle up a few who would go on the record as saying that they’re interested.
Now I am aware of the fact that the muckraking in this college is usually left to smaller publications such as the Free Press and the Real Deal. However, the admissions office basically blew off the Real Deal when they tried to inquire about their policies, and if I recall correctly, the Free Press was unable to obtain admission statistics from Williams either when they attempted to do so a few years back. But where a small publication gets subdued with a carefully worded statement, the Record can actually make a big stink.
Not to teach you journalism, but as a publication reaching both students and alumni, you have some weight which can be thrown around. For example, if you ask for admission statistics and their correlation with academic success, you’ll probably get the answer that such statistics don’t exist. If so, ask why not. Rustle up some professors and students who demand to know why not. Ask that such statistics be kept, since admissions is much too important a matter to be done blindfolded.
And if those statistics do exist, get someone to explicitly say why they’re not being released. If we cannot know all the secrets, then we should at least know that they exist, who is keeping them, and why. And most importantly, get people to go on the record as saying something more than platitudes.
I fully realize that I am writing to a paper that is basically interested in keeping the peace and continuing to be supported by the administration. But I’m also writing to a paper that is not nearly as interesting as the Real Deal, not to mention the Fox reality shows. In this era of shock value and desecration of sacred cows, let’s leave no stone unturned, even in the purple bubble. Why? Because enquiring minds want to know.