Princeton Review of UVA

In the 2016 edition of the Princeton Review’s Best 380 Colleges, under the UVA Life section, it says, “Some students are eager to see the school make changes in policies pertaining to student safety and sexual misconduct; the administration is responding and has shared a lengthy proposed new policy with the UVA community for review and comment.”

If I were a parent of an outstanding student finishing high school, I’d think twice about encouraging my child to apply to UVA after reading this.

The wimpy way the administration responded to the totally fabricated story by Rolling Stone is beyond disappointing. These committees and proposals seem like a subtle admission of guilt for something that never happened.

The UVA campus and surrounding area are no more dangerous than at any other university. Obviously, college students everywhere need to take responsibility and not get so drunk they don't know where they are, or who they’re with. UVA is no different. But the administration did little to convince the public of this or stand up for its student body of outstanding young men and women.

Eileen Salter
Birmingham, Alabama


Circumstances Also Important in Risk Aversion

I would like to suggest that in addition to Dean Allan Stam’s finding that “experiences in their lives” is a predictor of an individual’s being risk averse or risk acceptant, circumstance also plays a role.

Additionally, I challenge Dean Stam’s assertion that President Reagan is in the top 10 of all leaders since 1870 for risk acceptance. President Reagan’s decision to withdraw our troops from Lebanon after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing was clearly risk averse, and may well have given terrorists the idea that such acts would cause Americans to cut and run.

Bill Vogt
Henderson, North Carolina


Simpson’s Paradox

I read with interest Annie Rorem’s “Look Closer” discussion of salary gender equity. As a longtime statistics instructor, I cannot resist pointing out what an excellent example this is of the statistical principle known as Simpson’s paradox. In fact, the Wikipedia article on Simpson’s paradox presents as an archetypal case one that also deals with gender equity: graduate admissions at University of California, Berkeley, in the early 1970s. In that case, women sued the university on the grounds that their overall admission rate was significantly lower than that of men.

Annie Rorem (Batten ’13) conducts research on education and labor force participation with a particular interest in gender. Dan Addison

However, closer inspection showed that women’s admission rates were comparable or higher in every department—quite a paradox. It turned out that women tended to apply to more-selective programs in liberal arts, while men tended to apply to less-selective programs in science and engineering. Aggregating overall applicants to form a total admission percentage effectively weighted the department averages by the size of each department’s applicant pool by gender, meaning that the women’s numbers were more heavily weighted toward the more-selective departments, while the men’s numbers were more heavily weighted toward the less-selective departments, thus creating the paradox. In general, the statistical no-no is aggregation across a variable (department) related to the variable of interest (admission rate). Today’s question of salary equity is likewise fraught with aggregation across variables that very likely have relationships with salary: a statistical no-no as Mr. Simpson tells us, and as Ms. Rorem now also correctly points out.

As a side note, college sports fans may also recognize strength-of-schedule as something of a Simpson’s paradox problem, where opponent quality is the “no-no” variable underneath the aggregate value we call winning percentage.

Wesley N. Colley (Col ’93)
Madison, Alabama


Gender Gap Is Misunderstood

Perhaps the most misunderstood and misstated social science statistic is the earnings gender gap. It is a gross measure of earnings, not comparable pay, that requires careful understanding before employing as evidence. Ms. Rorem’s piece (Fall 2015) highlighting this need could not be more timely given its continued use in the media and promotion by well-meaning advocates. Her tentative conclusions and suggestions, however, belie the facts people need to know.

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as recently as December 2014, among the 26 million part-time workers (35 hours and under), women actually make $105 for every $100 men earn. Further, this statistic increases among full-time workers logging 35 to 39 hours, with women earning nearly 10 percent more than men. In nonacademic circles, most people know that women get all the good part-time jobs. The gap between earnings begins to materialize at 40 hours and peaks among workers reporting workweeks of 60 or more hours.

Looking at the earnings gap by age, women between the ages of 20 to 34 earn nearly 90 percent of men in the same age group. While women’s earnings decline as a percentage of male earnings as age increases, the truly striking statistic is that women’s participation in the labor market drops precipitously compared to men’s. For every 100 men ages 35 to 54 working, 80 women in that age group are employed full-time.

These earnings analyses do not even begin to consider occupation segregation, where traditional gender roles, values and effects of historical bias certainly impact. Studies have shown that controlling for occupation and hours, meaningful differences in earnings all but disappear.

And we must remember that some of these biases benefit women and are buttressed by current values. Surveys show that women, especially high-earning women, prefer marriage partners to earn more than they do. Certainly this criteria impacts both men’s and women’s earnings behavior.

The institutionalized discrimination in even recent history certainly merits continued vigilance. Discrimination—like all “crimes”—will never vanish. But there is a new landscape, one in which women thrive, often above men. The shorter life span, reduced college enrollment and the new norm of greater unemployment among men more than support the likelihood of multidirectional bias that can be uncovered in a truly holistic examination of gender and employment.

Michael D. Ullman (Com ’84)
Traverse City, Michigan


Kudos for the Cavalier Daily

Thank you for the inclusion of College Topics and the Cavalier Daily in your excellent “Firsts” in the latest Virginia Magazine edition. The Cavalier Daily is a special institution that exemplifies the Jeffersonian tradition of freedom of expression and student governance.

Its relationship with the University administration has not always been perfect, and there are economic challenges at the CD that all media face in the digital era. However, as Dean of Students Allen Groves recently said, “We are fortunate at the University of Virginia to have the Cavalier Daily, an independent news source ... I read it as a student; I read it today.”

The Cavalier Daily is ranked in the top 10 by Princeton Review among the nation’s student newspapers, although our alma mater has no journalism sequence or institutional underwriting. In a recent fund drive, a group of alumni demonstrated tremendous support for the CD. The CD students’ focus on new digital pathways provides a great opportunity for parents and alumni to get an insider’s view of the Grounds.

My 1960s-era classmates keep up by subscribing to the daily e-newsletter. Perhaps we will soon move up to the new CD mobile app, the result of collaboration between the new CD managing board in its 125th year and a student app factory, HoosApps.

John Lumpkin (Col ’71)
Richardson, Texas


Where Is the Honor Code?

I just finished reading the Fall 2015 magazine. There were mentions of many firsts, but no mention of the Honor Code. I graduated in 1961 and feel the Honor Code today is not as important as it once was. I was told one reason is that there are too many false accusations. This in itself should be a code violation.

What is going on? Can students cited for Honor Code violations be readmitted at a future date? Are dorm room doors locked? Are books and personal items left unknowingly and then stolen?

Please write an article on the Honor Code. It appears to me that the value of attending UVA has been diminished.

Richardson Smith (Col ’61)
Norwalk, Connecticut


Missing Firsts

You missed the following inaugural moments:

  1. The 1981 and 1982 women’s cross-country team won the first two NCAA cross-country championships ever held in the United States for women. These two teams still have the lowest scores ever for a championship team (in cross-country the lower score wins).
  2. The 1982 team won both the collegiate NCAA Championships, and the open U.S. Championships at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.
  3. I was the first woman to win both the NCAA individual and open U.S. Championships in 1982 for cross-country.

Lesley Welch Lehane (Educ ’85)
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts


The Alden in Alden House

Stephanie Gross

In reading “The House on the Hill” in the Fall 2015 issue, I was reminded of my years at the University. I transferred from Mary Washington College in 1951 as a third-year with a small group of prospective teachers, one of whom was my friend Joanne Hall, who later married Lee Alden, a student there and the son of astronomy Professor Alden who lived there—in case anyone was wondering where the name came from.

Betsy Gray Saffell (Educ ’53)
Arlington, Virginia