David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Is It Just Me?

August 7, 2013:  Is It Just Me?

Let's play a round of Is It Just Me?  As I peruse stories from higher education, I have to ask:  is it just me that sees the stupidity?

Round 1:  A Huffington Post article on the most "collaborative U.S. colleges and universities."    The blogger's central question: "What are the best U.S. colleges and universities doing to better promote collaboration, aimed at improving the college student experience?" 

How does he attempt to answer this question?  Is using only a % of the college/university population a scientific method we would approve of?   No, but he does, choosing "US News & World Report's list of the best schools. . . the top 100 universities in the U.S."  So, out of over 1000 institutions of higher education, he has chosen 10%, and the ones that have been identified as best through whatever subjective means, no matter how much US News and World Report argues differently, have dictated the Top 100. 

Is that bad enough?  How about how he defines "collaboration?" The schools are defined by "their combined Klout and Kred scores - a measure of their engagements across all major social platforms."  Oh, so collaboration can only come from social media.  Excellent!  We know great collaboration comes from the world of Twitter, where brevity is more important than depth.

The blogger's conclusion:  "The very best students, graduating from the very best schools, are extremely social and expect transparency and collaboration at all levels of the organization. "  Does Twitter allow enough characters to type "specious research?" 

It would be at this point that I would mockingly suggest that the writer probably has an MBA, but I will leave it alone. 

So, after Round 1, I ask, "is it just me?"

Round 2: The University of New Mexico has responded with punishments for a faculty member who tweeted negatively about an applicant's weight.  (I think I have blogged at least briefly about this guy before).  What is his punishment?

  • Not serve on an admissions committee.  Oh, sir, please don't throw me in that briar patch.  I wonder if every tenured faculty member across the country has just tweeted some inappropriate comment.
  • Develop a plan to go through sensitivity training.  First, why let the inmate help figure out the plan for his corrections?  Second, just what faith do we really have in any sensitivity training? I have seen such activities take place and still hear individuals with set-in-stone beliefs walk away muttering what a waste of time it is.  Granted, I believe very whole-heartedly in the ideas of sensitivity training; I just have found that many people are never really changed by them. Perhaps by a certain age, a tiger can't change his stripes.
  • Have his work monitored by the chair of the department.  You mean it wasn't being monitored previously.  What is the point of a supervisory relationship if the supervisor doesn't monitor? 

After Round 2, I have to ask, "is it just me?"

Round 3: And then there is this again: The list of top party schools in the country.  Here we go again.  Every year, we see this potentially flawed survey getting touted as "a reliable study" produced by an otherwise reliable source, The Princeton Review.

  • First off, it is published in context with the "Best 378 Colleges" guide (best "378?"  C'mon gang, round up or down!).  Why besmirch a legitimate study with a questionable one that will only raise consternation on the one side, or sophomoric pride on the other one (as a West Virginia University grad, I know there are alumni and current students around the country that are disappointed we dropped down to 4th place)?
  • Second, the list is so well-known, for the wrong reasons, that the self-explanatory "BroBible" has decided to refine the rankings so that bros all over the country can have the best data for their decisions about drinking and going to college (o.k., so I have allowed myself some creative license in anticipating their goals).  Yes, the Brobible ranks the Top 50 party schools, putting WVU back where we want to belong or shamefully hate to belong: #1.  Honestly, Princeton Review, you want to now be the sister or brother, pun intended, to the BroBible?

So, with Round 3 (and, no, just because I am a WVU Grad, I don't mean that kind of round), "is it just me?"

August is not a good month to be so cynical. I am supposed to be recharging for the next academic year.  I think I need a little beach time to relax.  And, yes, Mountaineer to the end, I will admit it:  there will be some alcohol involved.