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Damned Lies and Statistics

The Huffington Post put out a breathless headline the other day: Hundreds Call On Dartmouth To Overhaul Its Powerful Greek System. The D was not far behind: Online Suggestions Point to Abolishing Greek Life. Let’s play the same game, but with the opposite goal: Only 0.3% of Dartmouth Community Wants to Abolish Greeks.

Greek Vote.jpgWhere does that tiny number come from? Start with 75,787 alumni; add 3,443 staffers; 1,059 faculty members; and 6,342 students. Those figures sum up to 86,631 members of the Dartmouth community who could vote on the future of frats and sororities.

In fact, fewer than 600 people cast votes on the Moving Dartmouth Forward website as regards the Greek system, and less than half of them (only about 43%) voted to abolish the Greeks. The others has different suggestions. To whose headline should we listen?

The College seems to have a stats problem. For example, negotiations with the Freedom Budgeters seems to be ongoing, but for whom do these 30 or so disgruntled students speak? Not for the student body, that’s for sure. The FBers bore no petitions with thousands of names, nor any other evidence of broad-based support. They speak only for themselves: 30 students out of 6,342. That’s 0.5% — one in two hundred students.

No mandate there either.

Addendum: If the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils wanted to be clever, they could get word out to their members that voting for the preservation of the Greek system would influence the Moving Dartmouth Forward committee. I wonder if a surge in votes in this direction would lead to different headlines in the HuffPost and The D.

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