Cherry-Picking Exposed

Two recent Dartblog posts examine data from the American Federation of Teachers on the growth in the College’s staff. The numbers show a shocking increase in non-faculty employees. This might be surprising for those who remember President Kim’s budget presentation, which concluded (on page 26 of the transcript) that there has not been runaway growth.

The resolution of this paradox comes from the fact that Kim compared the years 2002 and 2010, whereas the AFT data covers all odd years from 1997 to 2007. The AFT data shows most of the staff increase occurring between 1997 and 2003; the rise between 2001 and 2003 may have taken place primarily in the first half of that interval. So staff does appear not to have increased too much since 2002.

This raises the question of whether it is coincidental that Kim’s data, from which he concluded that there has not been an “out-of-proportion explosion” in staff, begins right after the end of the out-of-proportion explosion. In the presentation, Kim said that “We’re trying to look back before 2002 to see what happened before.” However, it is hard to believe that that information was not readily available. For one thing, the AFT puts it on the internet. For another, Dartmouth presumably keeps its own records of its payroll. Kim might have meant that the administration was still looking into why the pre-2002 staff increases occurred. This would not be an excuse for concealing the increases. If he knew that the staff grew before 2002 but suspected that there might have been a good reason, he should have said so.

President Kim seems, in general, to believe in honesty and transparency. This makes it all the more disturbing that his presentation contained data that was, in all probability, chosen with intent to mislead.