Friday, January 15, 2010

The Old Facutly Diversity Argument Reappears

by Daniel L. Bennett

Another new report making the case for increased diversity among faculty was recently released, this time focused on MIT, one of the best science and engineering universities in the world. While we generally leave scrutiny of these types of reports to our better versed friends such as Roger Clegg, I couldn't resist commenting on a quote appearing in Inside Higher Ed's coverage.
"It is intrinsic to the mission of excellence in science and engineering that we engage a truly diverse faculty; otherwise, we stand to lose in both our competitive advantage and our overall mission."
Funny, I would have thought that the mission of excellence in science and engineering would revolve around having the best scientists and engineers that money can buy to train the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, regardless of the diversity of their race or ethnicity. It seems to me that not seeking out the best qualified faculty would lead to exactly the opposite - a decline in competitive advantage. Another finding from the report noted:
departments -- such as nuclear science, chemistry and mathematics -- that did not hire a single underrepresented minority faculty member from 1991 through 2009. In other departments, such as music, theater and writing, more than one fourth of hires were from underrepresented groups.
Science and engineering are areas that require a very specific set of skills. These skills may or may not be proportioned among the population the way that race or ethnicity is, so it is ludicrous to believe that these professions need to reflect the overall demographic proportions.


Overlook said...

"Funny, I would have thought that the mission of excellence in science and engineering would revolve around having the best scientists and engineers that money can buy to train the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, regardless of the diversity of their race or ethnicity."

Exactly. There you go again using common sense!

Hunter said...

Some interestings stories from Adelaide,

Cover all bases for productivity

Teaching is not a numbers game

Quality standards questioned


Overlook said...

Those are good links Hunter. I seriously doubt I am the first one to think of this, but here goes.

What do you think of a measure (ratio) sticker price (for a specific freshman class) who enter college to the number of (that class) that graduate?

I am talking about tracking specific groups of freshamn (by entrance year) and seeing how many of that specific freshman class graduate.

The measure would be subject to manipulation, but freshman (of a specific class who graduate) would be less subject to manipulation than sticker price.

In effect, if a college wanted to manipulate the data, they would manipulate price since it is easier to do to improve the ratio.

Second, you could begine to "smoke out" finances of colleges. You could presumably put a cost on failure to complete college and by extension, put a cost on retention.

Hunter said...

I do believe I know what you are getting to. Such a formula would ostensibly be subject to criticism because you Yanks practice price discrimination. However, you would need to use what you call "sticker price" and accept the built in error in order to have a constant. The criticism can indeed be ignored because this is the price that Universities advertise. Take the criticism and turn it right around and bash the Universities with it no doubt. And if I know your way of thinking, you are proposing to leverage this, as you have put it, to "smoke out" financial data from Universities for which we might draw conclusions and manipulate data to provide us more insight, and possibly more leverage. The ratio then becomes secondary to the objective.

For this to work you would have to establish a trend using at a very minimum 10 Universities. If such information is available from archives you could plot it and have your trend without waiting years. Subsequently, the information would have to be widely published and the Universities would have to bite for the set up to work. I am not quite sure if this would result in rebuttals from Universities with direct financial information. Rather, if such a measurement were used in the University rankings, the information might be skimmed from any change in the numerator of the trends of the Universities as they attempt to increase their ranking, or something to that effect.

To be quite honest I am unsure of how valuable the information would be and where we could go with it. I would find the ratios of more interest I do believe. I do not believe the ratios would be a retention cost. I might classify them as utilisation or non-utilisation costs, or possibly inefficiency costs. And for a more exact measurement, there would have to be 4 categories: those that leave college after 1 year or less, those that leave after 1 year but not more than 2 years, and so forth. After 3 years but not more than 4 years would be ridiculous and would probably not be much more than athletes. I would not be surprised if the CCAP blokes had already done this or considered it. You and I are amateurs are we not?


Hunter said...

Note to CCAP: "Bloke" is not a pejorative or deragatory term.