Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Office of Evaluation and Research

Dartmouth's Office of Evaluation and Research is a department within the Office of the Dean of the College. Its research focuses on the extracurricular lives of students and the undergraduate student experience.

The Office compiles data on the habits of Dartmouth students in areas of social behavior, career selection, and risk behaviors such as suicide, eating disorders, and sexual issues. These results are often compared to national trends.

This is an example of what the College administers to its seniors -- a Scantron developed by the Higher Education Research Institute.

The Office makes sense of such data in publications like this one comparing Dartmouth's first-year students to freshmen nationwide. It's a fascinating glimpse into the student body at Dartmouth.

Having a four-person department to keep track of such information, even as libraries and athletic budgets are cut? I say it can be justified, but only if its research is independently applied to inform Dartmouth's strategic objectives -- rather than using the administration's objectives to direct the research. Why such expend such capital polling Dartmouth students on scientific questions such as "In the past two weeks, have you played beer pong? How many games did you win?" when core academic classes are overcrowded and oversubscribed?

Is the real story here in department, the data, or in the questions being asked?