Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Just confuse them 

The lastest of the Campus Conversations (read: administration sticks wet finger into air, decides policy) asks us to solve the question of which "key performance indicators" or KPIs we should retain in our strategic plan. (If you are reading this late at night due to insomnia, the strategic plan cures all.) This asks for input on how important you think "academic distinction" and "diversity and social justice" are. Answers, we are assured, are anonymous. That isn't exactly true -- someone has to filter the log-in data. When this survey turns to faculty attitudes, which I'm sure it will, how willing will people be to say the university spends too much time on this strategic priority? One may claim the data is anonymous, but at the end of the day someone has to be sure that the data really have been cleansed to the point that recognition is impossible. That's a really, really hard thing, as university libraries even are finding out. Libraries are responding by minimizing stored data -- but that would seem to work only up to a point.

I spoke with some people in the private sector this AM who have the same types of issues. One says he always lies on requests for survey information because of the invasion of his privacy. Students apparently feel the same way, as they have now stopped reporting demographic information on their SATs, for example. Non-reported ethnicity is now "the largest minority group taking the SAT." As a result, data on relative performance of minority groups on the SAT are suspect. So too will be data acquired by the survey.