3.2.11

GETTING THE MISSION RIGHT.

The dean at Anonymous Community finds time on a snow day to read Academically Adrift and offer comments.
- Instructor expectations matter. Students who have more professors with high expectations learn more than students who don’t. Given that students will often go out of their way to seek out ‘easy’ professors and avoid ‘hard’ ones, this suggests a dilemma.
To whom?  Work with the 'hard' professors to develop their people skills, such that they're perceived as firm but fair, approachable, and helpful, and change the reward structure to remove the perceived incentive to buy good evaluations by being 'easy' and never mind the anonymous whinges on Rate My Professors.
- Reflecting on my time at Snooty Liberal Arts College, I could see why its students would do markedly well on tests of critical thinking. It had no ‘business’ or ‘communications’ majors; it had very selective admissions and therefore a strong ‘peer culture,’ and it lacked frats. My cc also lacks frats, but the other components don’t really carry over.
- ‘Peer culture’ is huge. If you run with a crowd of high achievers, you will adapt to it; if you run with a crowd of hard partiers, you will adapt to that. In an open-admissions institution, this presents a substantial challenge. (Some peer cultures are trickier than others. Coming from a public high school in a middle-class suburb, it took me a semester to raise my game when I got to SLAC. I didn’t know that the prep school kids affect insouciance in public while studying like crazy behind closed doors.)
That's why I like this guy.  In some ways our paths are similar.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with enough high achievers to not be destroyed by hanging with the hard partiers on occasion.
- Many students see college (and here the fact that it’s a sample of four-year colleges may matter) as primarily a social experience. It’s a chance to get away from Mom and Dad, to make new friends, to explore lifestyle options, and to get a credential. If that’s your orientation, then ‘learning’ is fine, as long as it doesn’t require time and effort. In that climate, lone instructors who raise academic expectations may pay a price in student anger.
That's within the control of the faculty and the administration.  Anonymous Community and Wayne State and Northern Illinois are in the same line of work as Columbia or Michigan or Chicago and ought not be discouraged to not be as well known or regarded as long as they don't have to apologize for not being Columbia or Michigan or Chicago.

A study (via University Diaries) of the benefit-cost ratio of student fees devoted to athletics at Ohio University (in the perpetually parlous Mid-American Conference) suggests that sports are overrated as a component of the collegiate experience.
[Matthew] Denhart [of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity] and [Ohio sport administration professor David] Ridpath found that of the more than 900 undergraduate or graduate students at Ohio who agreed to participate in their survey, 54.4% said that prior to taking the survey, they were not aware that a portion of their general fee is used to subsidize intercollegiate athletics. (Ohio does not itemize an athletics fee on its billing statements to students, although it does say on its website that the intercollegiate athletics is among the programs receiving money from its general fee charge.)


The researchers also found that 40.8% of the general fee money collected by Ohio during the 2010 fiscal year went to athletics, most among eight campus units receiving general-fee allocations. When asked to rank those those eight units in order of their importance "to you personally," 5.6% ranked athletics as the most important unit; 56.2% ranked athletics among the three least important units.
Asked the extent to which they would prefer that the university itemize on bills to students the amounts of fee money that go each of the eight units, 76.8% of the respondents said they "supported" or "strongly supported" the idea.
Denhart and Ridpath write that their study "may have implications for public policy," including the prospect of what they term a " 'truth in spending' requirement mandate notifying students of use of special fees levied to support" athletics. Denhart, however, said he was most surprised by two other findings.
He and Ridpath asked their respondents, in open-ended fashion: "On average, how many Ohio University intercollegiate athletic events do you attend per year?" In exchange for receiving student fee money, Ohio's athletics department allows students to attend home games for free. The average response was 5.8 events attended per year; the median was two, and 35% of respondents reported they attend none. USA TODAY, in a figure cited in the survey's case study, reported in September that Ohio is allocating $765 of each full-time student's general fees for the 2010-11 school year to athletics. (USA TODAY obtained this figure from the university, which charges fees on a per-quarter basis.)
"I'm a big sports fan, and I went to a lot of the games, so I kind of assumed everybody did," says Denhart, an Ohio graduate.
The survey also asked respondents to rate "how important a factor was Ohio University's intercollegiate athletics reputation in influencing your decision to enroll at this institution."


More than 78% of the respondents said it was either "unimportant" (24.8%) or "extremely unimportant" (53.7%).
The results "seem to contradict the conventional wisdom that athletics is a major admissions factor that students consider before enrolling at an institution," Denhart and Ridpath write.
It might be, as a University Diaries commenter notes, that Ohioans are primarily Buckeye or Browns or Bengals fans, if they're sports fans at all, and whether the place that Ohio has provided for them is at Kent or Bowling Green or Miami is less about prowess on the playing field and more about degree programs on offer.  Strictly speaking, a commitment by a state to provide a place in college for any state resident finishing in the top third, or top half, of his or her graduating class, is a commitment to offer a suitable intellectual challenge or suitable career preparation.  There's probably been an element of tracking present from the day the land-grant universities structured themselves differently from the normal schools, but there's nothing in the study that argues against Kent or Bowling Green or Miami attempting to be more like Ohio State in the classroom and research lab.  It's also instructive to see the sports enthusiast learn the folly of generalizing from his own experience.  (That's a frequent occurrence in any conversation with male economics majors involving stadium subsidies or ticket prices: your reservation price is high, but the allocation of resources depends on the marginal buyer, not the inframarginal enthusiasts.)

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