Friday, March 27, 2015

Bad Bad Survey

So there's a thing called Georgia Schools Parent Survey. I teach public opinion, I teach how to conduct (and how not to conduct) surveys. One of the great problems is what we call a SLOP, a self-selected survey.

Can anyone fill it out? Why yes. and I did. Took only a few minutes and then I got this:

Huh? Reload? I can do it again? Why yes. Yes I can -- though I didn't. One reporter got the problem and it was his tweet that brought this survey to my attention. Full disclosure, he's one of our former students.
Any survey that relies on people just happening to choose to participate is doomed to being, well, complete bullshit. A good survey has a representative sample, meaning everyone theoretically has a chance of being included. SLOPs tend to attract those angry, or those the target of some promotional drive. In the latter, I suspect some school districts will cook the data by asking their parents to participate.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Close Vote, No Coverage

If a close vote happens and no journalists are there to report it, does it make any difference?

Background first. UGA's University Council has little real power. The exceptions? It sets the academic calendar (when's fall break?), and it has power over curriculum. Pretty much everything else the administration can choose to ignore, if it so chooses. And sometimes it does.

The Council itself is made up of faculty, administrators, staff and students. I've even blogged about the makeup before. In other words, it's not a legislative body. It's no senate. Only in academe could the executive branch also get to be part of the legislative branch. It's called the Plantation Model of university governance.

Okay, history lesson over. Why am I prattling on? The Council met Wednesday afternoon (full disclosure, I'm an unfortunate member) to approve everything on the agenda. That includes dramatic changes to my own college. Not that you'd want to cover that, other than with a crappy man-on-the-street thing. 

But something did happen that I didn't expect -- a close vote.

There was a proposal by the grad student organization to increase the number of grad students unlucky enough to serve on the council. The speaker said the proposal had the support of undergraduates, via the Student Government Association, but no one from that organization was either at the meeting or decided to speak. You can read the details yourself at the link above, but what's interesting is the vote.

62 For
55 Against

It's damned unusual to see something so close. The argument against this is the proportion of grad students to undergrads is such that having nearly equal representation on the Council doesn't make much sense. I wish we could use the same argument and purge the Council of administrators who vote as ex-officios, but that's another matter for another day.

I voted for it. I figure if I have to suffer through Council meetings, so should as many other people as possible. Hey, I've decided things for worse reasons than that.

This has to come up again, because changes in the bylaws require two successive votes. Be interesting to see how the above vote changes, if at all, by then.

And finally ... so far I've seen no stories by the local student media. Hell, did you even attend the Council meeting? And if you didn't, why the hell did I have to go?

Oh, right. I represent Grady. Sigh.

Office Size

My journalism office is 116 square feet. That makes it 5 square feet larger than the office to my left (Kent Middleton) and 3 square feet larger than the office to my right (Mark Johnson). Yeah, it's the little things that matter.

Cranking university data, I found that the average size of an "academic office" in the Journalism Building is 136 square feet. That makes me -- as everyone already knows -- below average. It's just now we have a number to tell us exactly how far below average I am.

The largest Grady academic office? Room 328 (344 square feet), belonging to Nate Kohn in the Peabody suite. His Peabody boss, Jeff Jones, has a larger office (406 square feet), but it's categorized as a "non-academic office," perhaps because he runs a unit. Or because, oh hell, who knows.

So if we rank all "academic" offices based on size, mine is tied for 30th. That pretty much sums it up for me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wikipedia -- UGA

Sometimes when I have a few minutes I like to look up who has edited a Wikipedia page. For example, UGA administrators (where I work) have, on occasion, edited the passages about our former president.

And so, here's this UGA passage that was changed last month. The original on the left, the, um, creative language on the right. Don't worry, it was later changed.

Okay, but who did it? Someone from a certain IP number -- -- as told to us by the "history" function of the site. Who the hell is that? Check out this below: Toomsboro, Georgia. Ignore some of the noise, like Ga. Dept. of Education in Athens.

Or, here's a map:

A different search identified the location as Irwinton, Georgia, population 583. So how hard could it be to find the person? I even did a latitude and longitude search of the location, but it shows up in the middle of the woods.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

UGA Student Deaths

I wondered the other day about student deaths at UGA, criticizing a news story. So to get it right, I asked for the actual numbers. Tom Jackson, VP for Public Affairs, kindly supplied me with the data over the last several years. While recent deaths have rightly received attention -- because it's tragic when a college kid dies -- the numbers indeed demonstrate that this year is not unusual. See below.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Student Deaths at UGA

This tweet caught my eye today.
It caught my eye for a number of reasons.
  1. Instead of "less than other schools" make it "fewer than other schools." I know, persnickety.
  2. Best I can tell from the audio (listen here), UGA spokesman Tom Jackson doesn't discuss how UGA compares to "other schools." He talks about previous years at UGA. The story has it right.
  3. And finally, 14-15 deaths a year? I can't find any data to support that, though he may very well be right. He sees stuff I don't see. But, for example, this R&B story from a couple of years ago mentions five students that died that academic year. Perhaps there were more that the R&B simply missed. A reasonable assumption.
So, when you hear a PR guy say, sad as the recent deaths are, "we're doing better than the average," you really want to challenge him on that number. Ask him to justify it, to break it down by year. Don't merely be his mouthpiece.

Again, he may be right. Students die for lots of reasons -- health and accidents being the main culprits, and of course drinking plays a role. There are data for murders (none on campus in the last few years), but I'm still trying to find a good data source for student deaths. Here's a HuffPo story that says at least 57 college student deaths across the nation in Fall Semester (none listed from UGA).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More on UGA Prez

Finishing up playing with data about UGA's presidents. I wrote the other day about how not every former president has something (a building, a stadium, an outhouse) named after him. Here's the actual list below of every UGA president since the dawn of time and what's named after him as the place is presently used (there are no hers, at least not yet). Stanford and Finley have nothing that I can find, at least nothing large like a dorm or a building on campus. See my previous post, linked above, as to why this may be the case.

The first three names are the current and two most recent presidents. Too soon for them, plus when they do get around to naming a building after Dr. Adams, that will be an interesting time. 

President Facilities
Morehead Too Soon
Adams Too Soon
Knapp Too Soon
Stanford Nothing
Davison Academic
Aderhold Academic
Rogers Road & Apts
Caldwell Academic
Sanford Stadium & Road
Snelling Dining Hall
Barrow Academic
Hill Dorm
Boggs Dorm
Mell Dorm
Tucker Academic
Lipscomb Dorm
Church Dorm
Wadel Academic
Finley Nothing
Brown Dorm
Meigs Academic
Baldwin Academic

Finally, just messing around some more, I looked at how the lives of the UGA presidents overlapped. Below is a graphic that sums it up, one I posted on Twitter on Wednesday. Click on it to get a better view, for what it's worth. Kinda interesting if you're into history and UGA.

There's probably a story in all of this somewhere. Then again, I usually think there's a story in this kind of stuff, even when there isn't. If I missed a facility above, please let me know. Happy to make corrections.