Interesting article by Swat alumni on diversity at Swat

<p>I am not sure how much I agree with him, but he certainly brings up a few good points. It's tough being a minority and benefitting from policies that are in many ways ethically dubious...</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>"This vision of diversity has been realized without sacrificing intellectual power. If anything, high SAT scores count more than ever at Swarthmore, in large part because they weigh heavily in the closely watched rankings of U.S. News and World Report. (In 2000, the average SAT was 1420.) But much else has been sacrificed. The need to preserve “slots” for minorities results in eliminating many candidates with slightly below average SAT scores whose talents would contribute to the campus scene – musicians, artists, young entrepreneurs, students with demonstrated leadership skills. Preferences for Quakers and alumni children are also gone, at the expense of historical continuity and an ongoing sense of community."</p>

<p>"The latest news from Swarthmore is that applications have been falling off, even as they surge at comparable institutions. An admissions office spokesman has attributed the decline to Swarthmore’s demotion to third place in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of small colleges. A more likely explanation is the school’s growing word-of-mouth reputation as a grim, tension-filled environment. </p>

<p>College-bound youths today expect to encounter students of different races, backgrounds and nationalities. This goes without saying. But the picture that Swarthmore presents to the world is of a place where no one really fits in and questions of race, ethnicity and sexuality are endlessly problematic. Whites, in particular, might be forgiven for suspecting that Swarthmore regards them as just so much excess baggage. </p>

<p>Surely college should be a place where young people can work through their differences and enjoy doing things together – learning, playing sports, even socializing. This seems so simple, but it is hard to do when an institution is busy repudiating the very civilization that brought it into being." </p>

<p>Hmmm...interesting last 3 paragraphs. One thing that I picked up from this article is that diversity is not limited to the physical aspects of a person. The last paragraph is rather idealistic. It's hard to imagine a school like that.</p>

<p>Whew . . . no matter where you may come out on the issues raised, this is really a very thoughtful, provocative, and worthwhile piece.</p>

<p>I for one, do not agree with the article. I am also not sure how thoughtful it was. Especially where it says 'no one fits in'. Just not true from my limited experience as a parent of a freshman. And Swat does not come across as a 'grim' or joyless institution to us. And it isn't that left of center as this alum makes it out to be. </p>

<p>p.s - and it isn't 3rd in the USNEWS ranking and falling rapidly as claimed.</p>

<p>I had trouble once I got to Fred Hargadon, and couldn't read any further. This is the same Fred Hargadon who for 25 years following at Princeton, didn't accept a single student from Stuyvesant High School, arguably the best public high school in the country, which sent two dozen or so every year to Harvard. Not a one. Anti-Semitism? You bet. But I would note that he didn't accept a single Black student from Stuyvesant either, and they were hardly "unqualified". He is now, thankfully, gone, and thoroughly disgraced in the process.</p>

<p>Once it was clear that the author hadn't bothered to do her homework and displayed her ignorance, I wasn't particularly interested in learning about her "opinions". I hope (and trust that) Swarthmore teaches better research and writing skills these days.</p>

<p>Interesting read, but ulitmately just another anti-affirmative action, "underminng of Western values", "where's the fair deal for white people", right-wing rant clothed in intellectual verbiage. Bill Bennett could have written it. As a fan of Fox News and someone who is philosophically opposed to quota-based affirmative-action, I can smell this prose a mile away. Not that it's a dead giveaway when the website publishing the article is advertising "Ronald Regan Revolution" t-shirts! </p>

<p>At the end of the day, Spiro Agnew at least had brevity and alliteration on his side when he dubbed Swarthmore, "the Kremlin on the Crum" for having the un-American audacity to oppose not only Sen. McCarthy, but the war in Vietnam as well. I kind of appreciate the blunt approach, rather than the veiled political rant.</p>

<p>Too bad the author didn't let facts get in her way. Anyone who wants to look at either US News rankings or application numbers needs to take little longer term view. The acceptance rates at Swarthmore every year since 1997 have been at historic lows. The last time the college had been below 25% was back in 1971. Just a little research would show that Williams, Amherst, and Swarthmore have juggled the top ranking among them since the first rankings appeared 25 years ago. In the last eight editions, Swarthmore has been in the top slot three times, Amherst four, and Williams two. This juggling has nothing to do with any sudden change in quality at these institutions since 1998, but rather the annual tweaks to US News' formulas designed to shake up the top of the charts and sell magazines. Yield counts one year; not the next and so on and so forth.</p>

<p>It's convenient that the author cites one Chairman Emeritus of the Board, Neil Austrian (ex President of the NFL) who (big surprise) objected to the decision to drop football, but neglects to mention the strong support of another, Eugene Lang, for the decision. Last time I strolled around campus, I saw a lot more buildings named Lang than Austrian.</p>

<p>As a parent, I would rate the diversity on campus as the second biggest "positive" my white daughter has experienced at Swarthmore -- behind only the stunningly strong sense of community and friendship. What is particularly cool is that the bi-racial student body is so huge and so varied that nobody can even figure out what anybody "is" so they don't even bother.</p>

<p>I also would not peg President Bloom as being a mindless shill for political correctness. I thought that his comments on the recent forced decision to integrate the Tri-Co minority orientation were quite interesting. Of course, the "politically correct" view is that minorities should have exclusionary orientation groups free from the oppressive presence of white folk. </p>

<p>A student expressed this view in a question to Bloom at a recent forum, "What are Swat’s duties in this case? Because I feel like there’s an agreed subtext that this change is morally wrong. And if we don’t stand up to it, what are we going to do?"</p>

<p>Bloom responded, in part, "...we’re not so sure if there’s a sense of moral consensus. That’s much too difficult; there are people on both sides. There are those who argue that this is the right direction, that this is what we should do; and others who argue that this not right, because we should not allow grouping on any criteria. I know there are others who disagree, but I’m not sure if there are indicators of a moral consensus." He went on to add, "and I really think it does benefit by [including white students]."</p>

It's tough being a minority and benefitting from policies that are in many ways ethically dubious...



<p>You sound like Justice Clarence Thomas. That's one of his objections to affirmative action.</p>

<p>You should put that notion out of your mind completely going to Swarthmore. You wouldn't have gotten accepted if you weren't accomplished in one way or another and that is exactly the assumption that your fellow students will make. </p>

<p>There isn't a single student at Swarthmore who could be "bitter' about the selections the adcoms made. Why should they be? They all got in!</p>

<p>"Bill Bennett could have written it."</p>

<p>Ah, yes, the football wannabe from our alma mater, who gambled away $10 mil. in the name of "family values".</p>

<p>In this context, I believe that the proper pronounciation is: "family valyoos"</p>

<p>Bennett writes the introduction to the collge guide published by the right-wing lobby firm that sponsors conservative newspapers and speakers on many college campuses. For example, they 40% of the speaking fee for David Horowitz when he spoke at Swarthmore. The Swarthmore President's office paid the remainder of the fee out of discretionary fund to bring conservative speakers to campus.</p>

<p>Horowitz publishes the website where the article referenced in this post appeared. It's all pretty standard boilerplate stuff: anti-affirmative action, undermining Western male values by augmenting the traditional curriculum with un-American things like Asian studies or African studies (or examing the role of race and gender in American culture), reduced opportunity for white kids, yadda, yadda. </p>

<p>Swarthmore has long been a favored whipping boy for this crowd, dating back before Spiro Agnew's "Kremlin on the Crum" moniker. I think that probably dates back to the McCarthy era. Swarthmore pulled out of the federal student aid program in the 1950's rather than force their students to sign McCarthy's "loyalty oaths" and two Swarthmore students (Sen. Carl Levin and Gov. Michael Dukakis) made the front page of Washington Post in a picture showing them delivering a student anti-McCarthy petition to the Pennsylvania legislative delegation in Congress.</p>

<p>The Alumni Bulletin has a long a fascinating account of the sit-in mentioned in the OP's link, written by the guy who led to demonstration. I learned a lot of Swat history. Give it a look.</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>While I have no firsthand knowledge of the things discussed in the article (and hence no basis for assessing its accuracy), and may well disagree with more of what's in it than I agree with, judging from the other posts, I guess that I'm one of the very few readers to think that the article even raises any questions that are worth considering. Or maybe these questions are just so "old hat" to those who have been around the college world longer than I have (my oldest child is now a high school senior, so I'm a relative newbie) that they no longer have any resonance. </p>

<p>For me, though, I think that the article does raise some questions worth thinking about, such as:</p>

<p>--Whether the combined pressures to admit students with high SAT scores (and thereby preserve the school's position in the various rankings, etc.) and to admit students who are members of various traditionally recognized underrepresented minorities (racial, geographic, etc.) may have a tendency to exclude from admission students who might have something distinctly different and worthwhile to offer the community - artistically, for example - but who lack the SAT scores of other applicants and are not themselves members of the traditionally recognized classes of urms.</p>

<p>--Whether the Swarthmore community - and that of many other LACs as well - tends toward such a homogeneity of viewpoints, politically, culturally, etc., that it (1) fails to provide students with a real opportunity to encounter and respond to a variety of views, and (2) as a result, provides an educational experience that, however deep it may be, lacks genuine breadth.</p>

I won't be able to give you as articulate a response as Interesteddad but here it goes: I don't think there is homogeneity of thought at Swarthmore. There are all kinds of students there. My son for example sounds pretty centrist or even right-leaning these days especially when he says he is a "fiscal conservative"..... If you read the Phoenix (the college newspaper), you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of opinions there. Sure the Democrats on campus are a larger group than the Republicans. But this woman is wrong that people who are conservative are heckled out of existence there. As far as us being "old hand", I don't know about that...most of us have kids who are a year older than your son (daughter?).</p>

<p>I can't answer your question about whether Swarthmore admits students with lower SAT scores but who have something special to offer...I don't have the facts. But I think that Swat being a small school probably does not have the luxury of doing so. Mini will probably chime in here and tell us how Smith admits kids who fit that category...but remember, Smith is larger than Swat.</p>

This link will take you to the Philip Evans scholarship at Swarthmore (given by an alumni, Jerome Kohlberg). The recipients sound pretty interesting and diverse to me.
<a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Go to the left and pick a class (say '08) and you can see who got these scholarships. For example, the girl Crystal Richardson is an accomplished artist; she is also a well-known American Indian activist (a Pacific Indian tribe). Richard Mui opened a ESL classes for Chinese immigrant workers nationwide. My son knows these two. I don't know what the others did...and I don't know their SAT scores. But I am pretty sure these kids are extraordinary in ways that have nothing to do with academics.</p>

<p>ps - These kids' names are public on that website, so I see no reason not to post it here.</p>

<p>Momofthree: Thanks for the link. That's a wonderful first-hand account of "the crisis" that adds a slot of texture to the chapter in Walton's book on the history of Swarthmore.</p>


<p>Your questions are indeed fascinating, although I've seen better presentations that this particular article. There is quite a bit of anti-affirmative action research available, including a pair of research projects based on "Freedom of Information Act" acquisition of complete admissions data for the University of Virginia, including SAT scores by race. Most of this research is funded by the public policy groups who engineered the recent UMich Supreme Court affirmative action cases (they recruited the plaintiffs through advertising to find precisely the right set of legal circumstances).</p>

<p>Linda Chavez' group, CEO, (the group that just forced Swarthmore/Haverford/Bryn Mawr to open up their summer orientation program to whites) publishes a lot of
these articles.</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>As to SAT scores and the "slotting" admissions system, the "macro" answer is that, of course, anytime you use slots for one type of applicant, some other type of applicant loses a slot. Swarthmore was quite explicit in stating this fact as the rationale for dropping football. Their athletic department said that they could not continue to field the existing number of teams without 120 of the 360 slots in the freshman class earmarked for athletes. The admissions department was equally adamant that they could not allocate 120 slots AND continue to meet all of the other demands for slots, including diversity.</p>

<p>It is hard to dispute the fact that there are fewer slots for white applicants than there were in 1970. Unless you turn back the clocks to the days when elite colleges didn't enroll non-white students, that's inevitable. IMO, it serves no particular purpose to complain about that. My attitude? It is what it is. I love the diversity; I hate quota-based affirmative action. I'd love to see a better solution, but, I haven't been able to think of one.</p>

<p>You also have to look a the micro level. I see little evidence that Swat's admissions is heavily SAT driven. If it were, I don't think we would be seeing the waitlisted kids on College Confidential with SAT scores well above Swat's 75th percentile. We've all been commiserating with a waitlisted kid who had 1550 SATs, so clearly the decisions are based on something a little broader.</p>

<p>In the current freshman class, 25% of the verbal SATs are below 680 and math SATs below 670. This group obviously includes members of all racial/ethnic categories since it is considerably larger than the combined URM categories.</p>

<p>5.3% have verbal or math SATs below 600. </p>

<p>See page 10 of the Common Data Set:</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Likewise, I see little evidence to suggest that Swarthmore is more SAT focused now than in the past. From 1970 to 1995 (when the SATs were recentered) Swat's median Verbal SAT dropped from 674 to 650. Median math increased from 683 to 700. Since the recentering in 1995, median SATs have increased slightly: 710 to 730 Verbal, 760 to 770 math. However, the recent increase corresponds with the "echo boom" and significant increases in applications and an acceptance rate that hasn't been this low in 35 years. Not only does this impact Swat's pool, but it also impacts the acceptances at HYPSM, which means Swat may be enrolling more of their top acceptances (the accepted class always has higher stats than the enrolled class).</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I would also caution against drawing conclusions about who the below median SATs belong to at Swarthmore. I certainly would not assume a simplistic answer that the minority categories have the "lower SATs." I would not be surprised if the Asian-Americans at Swarthmore have the highest SATs of any group. This is a very broadly defined group covering ancestry all the way from the middle east, through India, to Japan. Some of these immigrant groups tend to do exceptionally well on standardized testing. </p>

<p>Conversely, I would not make assumptions about the Swarthmore students who self-identify as African-American or Latino(a). They represent a very wide range of ethnic backgrounds -- Carribean, African, African-American South American, and a LOT of mixed ethnicity. I would expect their test scores to cover a very broad range.</p>

<p>I don't think my white daughter was accepted because of super high SATs -- she had lopsided SATs that averaged right at Swat's median. She was accepted, among other reasons, because she had a solid high school transcript, glowing recommendations, a run-of-the-mill public school background, and a specific EC interest that Swarthmore valued. My perception of Swarthmore's admissions philosophy is that, if I had to choose between super-high SATs and a background/EC interest that added value to the campus, I'd much rather take my chances with the ECs (assuming some minimum SAT threshold).</p>

<p>Why does Swarthmore have such high median SATs? Among other reasons, kids who aren't very interested in academics don't apply, scared off by the "everybody works all the time" myth. It is also nearly impossible to get accepted to Swarthmore without a high class rank, high being relative to the type of high school. For the most part, the top students at any high school tend to have high SAT scores, relative to their socio-economic peers.</p>

<p>As to the specific claims in the article: the Admissions office openly admits that they ignore the policy of automatically accepting all qualified Quakers. As for legacies no longer being favored, I don't believe that claim for a nano-second. However, most elite colleges these days will only accept legacies who would be solid mid-pack or better applicants on their own merits. For example, I read in the recent Rice University athletics report that their legacy admits actually have slightly higher SATs than the overall accepted class. If you are a solid mid-pack applicant and a legacy at Swarthmore, I think you would generally be accepted.</p>



<p>Within the context of elite colleges that, by their very nature, cater to a selective clientele, I think that places like Swarthmore offer unprecedented breadth of viewpoints. Vastly broader than ever before in American education. To be sure, you'll get a wider cross-section at a state university; that's inevitable given the huge differences in academic selectivity.</p>

<p>I laughed at the original author's claim that a Swarthmore student would never meet a military veteran. My daughter's best friend at Swarthmore (white, early decision, never seriously considered any other college) is the child of a career enlisted Navy man who retired and now drives a city bus. My daughter and the other 60% of Swarthmore students from public schools have high school classmates serving in the military. </p>

<p>Of course, Swarthmore is largely "liberal" or "democratic", as is virtually every elite college in the northeast United States. The Democratic Party only carried two educational subgroups in the last presidential election -- high school drop-outs and those with post-graduate work. Guess what group dominates post-grad education? Yep. Elite college students and professors. </p>

<p>Like Achat, I'm not seeing this monolithic political viewpoint in the way that it is characterized. I don't think there are many Rush Limbaughs or Jerry Falwells at Swarthmore, but there are certainly students who express conservative or libertarian viewpoints on campus and in class.</p>

<p>"I can't answer your question about whether Swarthmore admits students with lower SAT scores but who have something special to offer...I don't have the facts. But I think that Swat being a small school probably does not have the luxury of doing so. Mini will probably chime in here and tell us how Smith admits kids who fit that category...but remember, Smith is larger than Swat."</p>

<p>I wouldn't have said anything of the sort. Smith's commitments, from what I can tell, are socio-economic. They have heavily devalued SATs based on their study, started by Pres. Simmons, now Pres. of Brown, which couldn't find any correlation between SAT scores and student performance once they arrived, and did mitigate against their three-decade long socio-economic commitments. And they don't labor with the need for all those athletes, currently 21-22% of the Swat student body (which is more than Dartmouth, but less than half Williams).</p>

<p>Now, Williams, that's another story. Besides filling up the sports teams, they have to fill up two symphony orchestras, and various theatre/dance/artistic commitments. I think they probably have a heavier legacy commitment than Swarthmore.</p>

<p>I think it would be a good idea for Swat to put more emphasis on artistic pursuits broadly speaking, but Swat is Swat, and students do self-select. And that's perfectly okay, I would think. When you are a small school, you labor with that burden. (I've always thought it better for a school to do what it does well, rather than do all things for all people indifferently.)</p>

<p>What I would be more concerned about is whether the emphasis on pure academics (which is superb at Swarthmore), and academic admits, has mitigated against their historic community service commitments. Yes, I know they still have them (I know folks who have come from there recently in the Friends community), but my impression is not nearly at the level of intensity that existed decades ago. Perhaps I read to much into such things (since this is a community I know well), but when Quaker Voluntary Service reopened its doors several years ago, it seemed rather pointed that they put the office at Earlham rather than Swarthmore, where it had historically been housed. Anyway, more Quakers at Swat, as urged by the author, would have resulted in a more leftward tilt than exists now, which is another reason to believe the author doesn't know what she's talking about.</p>

<p>I'm not sure why the Quakers would locate a Quaker service organization at Swarthmore, which is a non-Quaker school when there are schools like Earlham that are affiliated with the Society of Friends!</p>

<p>Within the last five years, Swarthmore has made a major organizational commitment to community service. They have opened a new Lang Center for Social and Civic Responsibility with a fairly significant endowment for social service projects by Swarthmore students. This brought all of the student community service programs under one umbrella with significant resources. </p>

<p>Indicative of the priority being placed on this initiative is the fact that the Provost of the college, Jeannie Keith, was moved from the Provost job into the position of head of this organization. One of the objectives is to incorporate social service learning into the curriculum. For example, D is taking a seminar taught by Jeanie Keith this semester on social service. Part of the course is involves an internship with a local non-profit service organization.</p>

<p>As for music. According to the Williams director of admissions Nesbitt, Williams admits 120 music EC students per year, or about 22% of the incoming class. </p>

<p>I would be very surprised if there are fewer than 1 in 5 music EC students in each freshman class at Swat. Heck, there are probably close to 15% music EC kids among the Asian-American freshmen alone. I personally know of two recent admittees from performing arts High Schools -- one here on CC.</p>

<p>"I'm not sure why the Quakers would locate a Quaker service organization at Swarthmore, which is a non-Quaker school when there are schools like Earlham that are affiliated with the Society of Friends!"</p>

<p>Because they always have. </p>

<p>I am very pleased by the Lang initiative (I knew of it before), which I think they instituted because they knew it was slipping. And I think it is GREAT idea, and wish other schools would do it (including Smith, which doesn't.)</p>

<p>"I would be very surprised if there are fewer than 1 in 5 music EC students in each freshman class at Swat."</p>

<p>It's not a matter of whether they are admitted, but whether they are actively pursuing it. (You know as well as I do what the shape of the orchestras is at Williams relative to Swarthmore. If it isn't happening at Swat, it is because the campus culture emphasizes something else, AND there is nothing wrong with that. Can't see why they should all be the same.)</p>

I am very pleased by the Lang initiative (I knew of it before), which I think they instituted because they knew it was slipping.


<p>Actually, I think it had more to do with the interests of Chairman Emeritus of the Board, Eugene Lang, specifically one of his pet projects:</p>

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>It's a good thing for Swarthmore because it gives them a central administrative hub with full-time staff to bring some structure to what had been a very decentralized community service program. I can tell you this, they certainly teach them how to write grant applications, judging from the one my daughter just submitted!</p>

<p>Nevertheless, I think that there is a pretty strong commitment to public service among the Swarthmore students. The fifth most frequent employer of Swarthmore grads immediately after graduation in recent years has been the Peace Corps. The sixth most frequent has been Teach for America. </p>

<p>Of the 140 graduates last year listed on the Career Services, I count 23 who are joining the Peace Corps, teaching (everywhere from NYC to Guatemala, to Bejing), working for a non-profit service organization, or a Washington-based public policy group.</p>

<p>The article doesn't describe the Swarthmore that we hear about from our son.</p>

<p>On ideological diversity, for example. Both the son and daughter of a very prominent, very conservative Republican Congressman from Virginia attend Swat--and apparently are thriving there. (Wonder what David Horowitz would say?)</p>

<p>On legacies and Quakers: Just looking at the freshman viewbook you can see that there is a disproportionate number of students from Friends academies (who may or may not be Quakers, I realize). S has also been struck by how many kids are children/relatives of alumni--most of his friends, in fact. </p>

<p>The commitment to social justice--along with but not limited to community service--still burns bright. The students definitely get the message that they're expected to make the world a better place, in whatever way they can. In fact, one of the things that has surprised me most about Swarthmore is how strong the Quaker heritage is still.</p>

<p>We're looking forward to Parents' weekend this year: my only complaint is that I wish they had it in October rather than April.</p>