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Bad Statistics Keep Re-appearing
When you show a misleading statistic the door at the College, it often returns via the window. A recent College press release included the following:
In 2009-10, 63 percent of classes enrolled 19 students or fewer, while only 8 percent enrolled 50 or more.
As we have pointed out before, this figure is a textbook example of a statistic that confuses rather than enlightens. At first glance, students might assume that almost two thirds of their classes at the College will have 19 students or less. Wrong. Here is the distribution of the number of students in courses of varying sizes. (As always, these statistics are from the Dartmouth Fact Book.):
Student Enrollments by Class Size 2009-2010
2-19 students: 12,414 (33%)
20-29 students: 6,323 (17%)
30-39 students: 5,014 (13%)
40-49 students: 3,828 (10%)
50+ students: 10,446 (27%)
The College’s 63% statistic is valid from only one perspective: describing for faculty members the size of classes that they will likely teach. However, as the above table indicates, students will find that only 33% of the classes that they take during an academic year have <19 students. That's a significant difference. (And 37% of the classes that an average student takes will have >40 students.)
In an institution devoted to rigorous academic inquiry, it is time to end these PR-driven pitches. While they might fool some of the people, the faculty and other acute observers see them as evidence of a lack of seriousness — let alone honesty.
Addendum: Giving credit where credit is due, it seems that the total number of courses taught at the College is on the rise:
Total Number of Classes Offered 2009-2010
That said, word has gotten back to me that the latter figure should drop appreciably for the 2010-2011 year.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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