Archive for June 2008

OSU’s internal College of Engineering ranking system

June 30, 2008

Look what I found:

Innovation capacity metric = 40 x (number of BS degrees/average number of BS degrees for top25) + 10 x (number of MS degrees/average number of MS degrees for top 25) + 20x (PhD degrees/average number of PhD degrees for top 25) + 30 x (research expenditures/average research expenditures for top 25)

As was pointed out to me, there is no mention of quality here. In fact, there is no mention of anything besides “more” – more students pushed through and more research dollars spent, with no way to take in to account quality of education or success/type of research.

In other words, it’s not a very good standalone measure of the quality of a College of Engineering. It’s a decent measure of productivity alone, but that’s it. Also note: It says nothing about the faculty.

Second, the Corvallis Gazette-Times made a few mistakes on this one (as I not-so-subtly insinuated here). It has printed a number claiming to be the ranking of the CoE based on this metric at least once, if not twice (and in the second case, you don’t even want to know where the writer of that piece initially claimed to have gotten the number for OSU’s CoE ranking; it’s all I can do not to post it, it’s so unprofessional). In neither case did the GT even bother to mention where OSU’s supposed ranking came from. That was mistake number one – sourcing a number like that should have been a no-brainer.

Mistake number two happened in at least the first case: If the GT knew that OSU was using an internally-devised number (and I have reason to believe they did), they should have asked how the metric was devised, and upon figuring that out, spent a sentence or two noting that – even in an article about the death of Martin Kelley.

I’ll be honest: I don’t actually get frustrated with the GT very often. It’s got a pretty low reputation among almost everyone I know not in journalism circles, and I usually find myself defending the paper. Not today.


Completely coincidentally, filed under "things that caused me no end of angst as a teenager."

June 30, 2008

Richard Rorty, from Philosophy and Social Hope, page 19:

I take this near unanimity among my critics to show that most people – even a lot of purportedly liberated postmodernists – still hanker for something like what I wanted when I was 15: a way of holding reality and justice in a single vision

Oh, was that ever me.

Continuing on directly:

More specifically, they want to unite their sense of moral and political responsibility with a grasp of the ultimate determinants of our fate. They want to see love, power and justice as coming together deep down in the nature of things, or in the human soul, or in the structure of language, or somewhere. They want some sort of guarantee that their intellectual acuity, and those special ecstatic moments which that acuity sometimes affords, are of some relevance to their moral convictions. They still think that virtue and knowledge are somehow linked – that being right about philosophical matters is important for right action. I think this is important only occasionally and incidentally.

I like Rorty already. Thanks, JAO.

Thank you, Todd Simmons. My degree is now worth less for having read what you had to say.

June 27, 2008

While perusing the GT archives, I found this awesome story on how OSU ranks according to the US News and World Report. Check out this choice bit:

Over the years, Simmons said, OSU has remained steadily in the third tier, which he said is actually a testament to how hard the university has worked to keep retention, graduation and quality steady despite some very lean budget years.

Although OSU might be firmly stuck in the third tier, Simmons said the university isn’t suffering because of it.

“It really doesn’t have an impact on our recruitment,” he said.

One bright spot on the newly released report, Simmons said, is that OSU’s graduation rate has improved from 56 percent to 60 percent.

Simmons is more interested in other rankings, such as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s classification, which ranks a university’s quality of research activity. OSU is the only Oregon university to receive a top ranking from the foundation.

“It’s a better reflection of what we really care about,” Simmons said.

Translation: F*** students F*** teaching! Bring on the research dollars!

I’m not saying research isn’t a big deal, especially at land-grant school, and one that does do an amazing amount of world-class research. However, it clearly reflects OSU’s bottom-line priority that research is more important than students – after all, tuition can’t go up too fast, and state funding is, in the long run, decreasing, so it makes a certain amount of economic sense to concentrate on bringing in research funding. But there are 20,000 students here, and someone should tell them they’re worth less to the OSU elite than a bunch of bacteria in a lab in a basement somewhere. This kind of move suggests that OSU, at the top, is less about being a university that offers a broad, rounded education and more about being a series of research labs and professional schools that offer job training.

Someone should make copies of this and distribute it at START sessions this summer…

Heh, I said ‘credibility gap’.

June 27, 2008

Reading the Gazette-Times the last few days, one particular statistic caught my eye.

From the story on the death of OSU alum and major donor Martin Kelley:

OSU has improved [its College of Engineering ranking] from being ranked in the 60s to the top 40.

From today’s Roses ‘n’ Raspberries, the same statistic:

Kelley’s generous gift already has helped to move OSU from its place in the middle of the pack of engineering schools to somewhere in the high 30s or low 40s, well on the way to the goal of being in the top 25.

I know OSU has been trying to become a top-25 engineering school for some time now, but this ranking was way higher than anything else I’ve seen. Just to be sure, I checked the US News and World Report rankings. From what I could find, OSU’s engineering graduate program is ranked 80th in the nation and its undergrad 76th. Those numbers are a far cry from the “upper 30s.” I don’t really like the US News rankings, but the discrepancy there is huge.

The other reason the numbers caught my eye is that they are unsourced in both stories. Combine that with what an OSU faculty member told me – that the OSU College of Engineering makes up its own rankings – and I got suspicious.

As it turns out, my suspicion may or may not be unfounded, as the number mentioned in both stories was given to the GT by OSU and does, indeed, come from some sort of OSU-devised ranking process. As far as I have been able to find out, no one knows what methodology OSU uses to determine how the OSU College of Engineering stacks up against other schools. It could turn out that their methodology is really good – but I doubt it. So:

1) OSU needs to publicize its ranking system and the fact that they use their own, and now, if for no other reason than to avoid the appearance that they are stacking the numbers. As it stands, I see no other reason for OSU to use its own system unless it compares favorably to other, more accepted ranking systems, making OSU look better than it is. This should be a problem for OSU. I hope they’re not feeding this line to the Governor or Legislature…

2) The GT needs to start sourcing the ranking numbers for OSU and its College of Engineering, regardless of where the numbers come from. Not doing so will create a credibility problem for the GT if and when people find out OSU is making the numbers up themselves, even if the methodology is good. I have no idea if anyone at the GT has any information on OSU’s methodology, but I do know the GT is aware that it’s an internally-devised ranking system. I have a request for more information in to the GT, but I doubt I’ll hear back.

The bottom line: It’s sketchy that OSU is choosing to use its own system in the first place, and the GT is doing OSU – but not the public – a favor by not including that fact in stories that mention the ranking.

Two Reflections

June 27, 2008

How grateful I was then to be part of the mystery, to love and to be loved.
Let’s just hope that is enough.

– “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (To Love And Be Loved)”, Bright Eyes

Part One

I am approaching one year since I ended a six-year relationship. That event marked a clear break in my life, the last year being filled with new experiences, new thoughts, new feelings, new people, many different than what my life had been made of the year before. I’ve been filled with joy at all the wonderful people that have entered my life even as I fight the sadness that results from the ongoing realization that I may have permanently lost a friend.

Part Two

It’s the end of the academic year. My life, since before I can remember, has revolved around that year. Given my current job and location in Corvallis, it still does.

I have always struggled to handle the fact that many of my friends will, inevitably and for a variety of reasons, move away, something that happens, also inevitably, in the summer. It was hard when I started college without them around; it was hard when they started graduating; it’s hard now, when I’m out of school.

This year, it’s been much worse than in the past. I know I’m not the only one dealing with this, but – to invert a question a question I asked of a friend earlier today – how do you communicate the emotional depth and weight of sadness, of a feeling of loss? How can I communicate to others what they mean to me, what I’ve gained from my time spent with them, what I want to offer them in support and friendship and love, what I’ve learned from watching them move beautifully through the world? Anything I can think of to say seems wholly inadequate.

Right now, I am at a loss. I only know that it hurts, and that there will be more pain, and that I will make new friends, and that we will share in each other’s happiness, and that they, too, will eventually leave, and I will hate the world again for doing this to me.

I am trying to remember how much fun I’ve had, and what it’s like to get together with an old friend, and sometimes that works. Tonight? Not so much.

Remember this when he becomes McCain’s VP choice.

June 27, 2008

From (of all places)

Today, Gov. Jindal signed the “Sex Offender Chemical Castration Bill”…

SB 144 by Senators Nick Gautreaux, Amedee, Dorsey, Duplessis and Mount provides that on a first conviction of aggravated rape, forcible rape, second degree sexual battery, aggravated incest, molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under the age of 13, or an aggravated crime against nature, the court may sentence the offender to undergo chemical castration. On a second conviction of the above listed crimes, the court is required to sentence the offender to undergo chemical castration.

As far as I know, this is not a joke.

No one deserves chemical castration. No one.

Quoted from an email I just sent

June 26, 2008

“The definition of education has always been contested terrain. Education as prison, education as babysitting, education as job training…. education as liberatory, education as a privilege, education as a means to an active citizenry…. none of these has ever completely won; all have influenced education, including higher education, as a whole [and certainly the list is not complete]. Certainly at different times and in different cultures, one particular ideology may become dominant. Here, now, I see the trend as anti-liberatory, anti-critical thinking and pro-job training. In other words, pro-capitalist.”