Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh, honestly.

Is this the best that York's propaganda arm can churn out these days?

A selection of errors:
A 1997 professors' strike at York University that stretched the school year into May caused an estimated loss of summer earnings to students of $12 million, or about $630 per student, according to a study conducted at the time.

The landmark survey of a sample of about 540 undergraduates by York social science professor Paul Grayson – one of the only studies in North America to look at the impact of a campus strike on students – shows that 37 per cent of students were worried about getting a late start on their summer jobs.

When contacted five months later, the students were asked to estimate how much they had lost by missing up to a month of summer because of making up classes, and the average was found to be $630 per student, said Grayson, of York's Institute for Social Research.
So, two points. First, we have no idea how these students were selected. Randomly? In a representative fashion? Or were they self-selected? Without that piece of information, there's no way to tell whether we can generalize from this sample to the population as a whole.

Second, the number reported is an estimate from the students. It's not based on any consideration of past earnings, labour market conditions, or anything beyond their subjective impressions. Given the number of cognitive biases that could distort this sort of estimate, there doesn't seem to be any reason to take it seriously.

Now, watch this one:
During the strike, three out of four students said they had "major concerns" over not knowing how long it would last, and 61 per cent had major concerns over how their assignments and tests would be changed when the strike ended. More than half were afraid they would have forgotten important information over the seven weeks.

"The strike had a very significant impact on students," said Grayson, citing senior students in particular who were applying to graduate school, education students whose practice-teaching in schools was disrupted and science students, who worried that gaps in their coursework would hamper them in years to come.

Yet when asked five months later whether the strike truly had disrupted their academic year, most said no, which Grayson said could be linked to the human tendency "to mellow our recollections over time."
Catch that? When the students say that they were worried, Grayson takes the concerns seriously. When the students later said that their worries seemed unfounded, Grayson dismisses the impressions completely.

The bias speaks for itself.

Oh, and, let's not forget: Grayson is talking about the 1997 strike, which was by YUFA members -- the same tenured and tenure-stream folks who recently signed a petition urging CUPE 3903 members to end their strike.

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