Saturday, January 04, 2003

JCRC/StarTribune war on SCSU continues 

After the letter written by President Saigo to the StarTribune, we had thought the issue would die at the newspaper, but they're at it again. Today Ed Siegel disputes Pres. Saigo's letter arguing that Saigo is wrong to say that we've the best track record on diversity in the state of Minnesota and that he must "acknowledge and accept the existing evidence".
Yet three recent, contiguous and separate studies have validated the same findings: There is a hostile climate for minorities at SCSU. Saigo need not dance around the issue -- the proof is already in. Conveniently, the president took the high road by skirting around the issue, but the data speaks for itself.
Siegel is not a disinterested party. He is president of the Center for Evaluation Research and co-authored the JCRC report (linked here) that we've discussed. Looking over Siegel's bio at CER's website shows no experience whatsoever in diversity issues; the website claims his firm's expertise is in statistical computing. He has a masters in psychology plus 3.5 years post-masters work. JCRC is, based on CER's website, their only client ever in this type of research. One must wonder why CER was hired, but that's at least JCRC's money and their choice, unlike the $87k we paid to Nichols and Associates for their report, which even Siegel says has "many technical flaws".

But what is deeply disturbing about Siegel's letter today is that he doesn't even seem to remember what he wrote in his and JCRC President Steve Silberfarb's report. From page 4 of the report they say

By definition, the scan will not determine the factual basis for claims of anti-Semitism nor determine the degree of institutional culpability (whether by omission or commission). Rather, it is an attempt to gain a sense of how those individuals who participated in the interviews are thinking and feeling about anti-Semitism on campus. Thus, we make no assertions regarding the factual basis for these perceptions. The reality we are capturing is what the people who participated perceived and related to our interviewers. As a result, we have no way of knowing whether or not the perceptions contained herein are the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
The cultural scan was to look at a lot of documents from the anti-discrimination cases, create their on questionnaire "based on JCRC's collective knowledge of anti-Semitism" and interview people "face-to-face, one-on-one ... on a first come first served basis." Which requires a lot of expertise in statistical computing.

So who did they talk to? Forty-six people, of whom six were former faculty (five of them Jewish), ten were students, 28 faculty member and a couple of staffers. Five of the interviews were done by phone (why?), and the report notes "[t]here was an impressively large number of former faculty". Did Siegel ever stop to ask why? And why they were chosen?

This is not a quantitative analysis. There has been no attempt to gain any sort of random or scientifically structured sample. The scan does not necessarily represent a cross section of people on campus. We attempted to interview as many Jewish members of the SCSU campus populations as we could.
And even those not on campus. It turns out in the executive summary we find out "Some Jewish faculty members were recruited using a phone list provided by a faculty association." It's not clear if this is from the Faculty Association (our union), the Jewish Faculty Association or some other organization. (Which makes one wonder -- who's keeping count?)

Yet somehow today, Mr. Siegel can attack our university president with "The numbers and survey statements render Saigo's cheerful comments as out-of-place and incorrect, compounding the problems at St. Cloud State." Which report is he reading? Certainly not JCRC's.