Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prof of the Year

Colleague John Knox of UGA was named Georgia's (the state, not the school) best university professor. You can see the entire list here, the press release about Knox here.

English and biology profs won in four states, math and physics profs in three.  Geography profs won in two states, as did chem and psych profs (three if you count psychological and brain sciences).  There's film and theater and Japanese, a mix here and there, and various flavors of engineering. It more or less looks like what you'd expect, given there are a lot more English and bio profs than there are, say, film profs.

Apparently Knox is the first UGA prof to win it since 2004. I haven't found a list yet over time. Will look again later.

UGA University Council

If you think UGA's University Council is supposed to act as a legislative branch or check on the executive branch (i.e., administration), then think again. The "rule-making" body of the University is presided over by the University president. Imagine Barack Obama in charge of the House or Senate. Yeah, right. To further separate the Council from, say, a faculty senate, look at how the math breaks down.


So administrative types, the ex-officios (deans, VPs, etc.) make up 15.4 percent of the voting body (a cynic might call them administrative lackeys, but that's largely unfair). Students make up 10.1 percent. The 155 faculty and staff are not separated on the site, but lumped together. I can't tell from first glance if this reflects faculty and staff council representation or includes, oddly, a bunch of administrative people. To clear this up I went to the raw data of members. First, while the Council site says there are 208 members, reflected in the table above, my count shows 214. Not sure why the discrepancy other than, perhaps, the site doesn't reflect recent additions of colleges, etc.

Okay, so back to the numbers. By my count there are 126 non-administrative faculty who are on the Council, or 58.9 percent of the body, and 21 students. So the math in the table above doesn't quite add up compared to the database of members, but I may easily be misidentifying someone (but let's face it, I'm probably not).

I mention this because (1) I'm stuck on the Council for three years (2) it just met and (3) it was ironic how many administrative types were there. Just saying. Like a VP is gonna vote against the president.

Oh, and for many "action items" voted on by the Council, the President can simply choose to ignore them. The exceptions are issues of curriculum, the academic calendar, and the guidelines for promotion and tenure.

Wanna check my math? See below.
Alpha Sort of Council Members Number
Associate Provost & University Librarian  1
Campus Dean, Georgia Regents/UGA Medical Partnership  1
Chair, Staff Council  1
College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences  15
College of Education  12
College of Engineering  3
College of Environment & Design  3
College of Family & Consumer Sciences  5
College of Pharmacy  4
College of Public Health  4
College of Veterinary Medicine  10
Dean, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences  1
Dean, College of Education  1
Dean, College of Engineering  1
Dean, College of Environment & Design  1
Dean, College of Family and Consumer Sciences  1
Dean, College of Pharmacy  1
Dean, College of Public Health  1
Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine  1
Dean, Franklin College of Arts & Sciences  1
Dean, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication  1
Dean, Odum School of Ecology  1
Dean, School of Law  1
Dean, School of Public & International Affairs  1
Dean, School of Social Work  1
Dean, Terry College of Business  1
Dean, Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources  1
Franklin College of Arts & Sciences  43
Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication  4
Interim Dean, The Graduate School  1
Odum School of Ecology  2
Office of the Senior VP for Academic Affairs & Provost  6
Office of the Senior VP for Acadmeic Affairs & Provost  1
Office of the VP for Instruction  3
Office of the VP for Public Service & Outreach  8
Office of the VP for Research  4
Office of the VP for Student Affairs  4
President  1
President, Alumni Association  1
President, Graduate Student Association  1
President, Postdoctoral Association  1
President, Student Government Association  1
Registrar  1
School of Law  4
School of Public & International Affairs  4
School of Social Work  2
Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs & Provost  1
Staff Counci Representative  1
Staff Council Representative  7
Student Representative, College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences  1
Student Representative, College of Education  1
Student Representative, College of Engineering  1
Student Representative, College of Environment & Design  1
Student Representative, College of Family & Consumer Sciences  1
Student Representative, College of Pharmacy  1
Student Representative, College of Public Health  1
Student Representative, Franklin College of Arts & Sciences  6
Student Representative, Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication  1
Student Representative, School of Law  1
Student Representative, School of Public & International Affairs  1
Student Representative, Terry College of Business  1
Student Representative, The Graduate School  2
Terry College of Business  8
The Graduate School  1
Vice President for Development & Alumni Relations  1
Vice President for Finance & Administration  1
Vice President for Instruction  1
Vice President for Public Service & Outreach  1
Vice President for Research  1
Vice President for Student Affairs  1
Vice President, Student Government Association  1
Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources  3
Grand Total 214

Tack-On, or Just Tacky?

In its Florida State University shooting story today, The New York Times includes in the last graf:
The university, one of the largest in Florida, has about 40,000 students enrolled in 16 colleges spread across Tallahassee, the state capital. The university has recently drawn criticism after reports that athletes on its football team, a contender for this year’s national collegiate championship, had received preferential treatment from the police in criminal matters.
So 19 grafs are about the shooting, and the 20th graf is what you see above (at least in the version now up). There are lots of names for a graf like that -- context, background, fodder, padding. Probably others I'm missing. But is it merely a tack-on graf, or is it just plain tacky?

FSU fans, of course, are hardly objective. See below:

And so on. You get the idea.

I skimmed a few other news stories to see if others tacked on info about the cozy relationship between Tallahassee/FSU cops and athletes, but I didn't see any. That's interesting and damning for the NYT, but that doesn't make it wrong. Let's take a moment to consider a possible defense for the world's leading news organization. It is the NYT that has, after all, broke stories about the too cozy relationship between cops and football players at FSU (where are you, Florida media?). A reader of the NYT might see the FSU shooting story and think, wasn't that place in the news recently? The last graf reminds the audience why FSU rings a bell. Plus we're talking cops in the football story, and cops in a shooting story.

(I know, FSU fans, it's hard to imagine the school not being in the forefront of people's minds, but it's not Harvard, it's not MIT, hell it's barely on the list of top public universities, so excuse readers of the NYT for perhaps not thinking much at all about the school. Other than football, why would you?)

Okay, so much for the NYT defense. Now, the prosecution.
  • It's telling that no other news org seems to have mentioned the football thing. That suggests a NYT bias.
  • And let's say an FSU prof won a Pulitzer or Nobel in the past week, would you have tacked that on to the story? No. This feels more like piling on, to borrow from the football lexicon. 
At least it's in the last graf, so the bitching from the FSU fans should also be placed in context. It's the 20th graf of a 20-graf story, a tragic shooting story. An argument could be made it should go higher, in terms of context for the reader, so buried so low seems a reasonable place -- if you insist on including it.

My own take? I would have left it out, but I suspect it got added to the story by some editor along the way, tacked onto the bottom.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Driving Alone

We've all seen the long commute data, but here I'm going to focus on a similar but related measurement -- people who commute the longest, and who drive alone. Using data from this site, I ranked the counties in terms of people who drive alone to work, for the longest period. Why? Because commuting is considered bad for your physical and mental health -- and doing so alone is considered even worse. That's why it's measured in the first place.

Okay, you'd think counties near L.A., in California, or perhaps the greater Atlanta metroplex, would dominate the list. You'd be wrong. Survey says:

1. Elbert County, Colorado (71 minutes)
2. Park County, Colorado (67 minutes)
3. (tie) Gates County, North Carolina; Amelia County, Virginia; and Robertson County, Kentucky (66 minutes)
6. Charles City, Virginia (65 minutes)
7. (tie) Charles County, Maryland; San Jacinto County, Texas; and Paulding County, Georgia (64 minutes).

Okay, I'm bored typing. You get the idea. The Colorado counties serve Denver, the Kentucky county is the smallest in the state and is roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Lexington, Ky. There are a lot of Virginia counties high on the list, mostly around D.C. But coming in at 14th is New York if that makes you feel any better. Twenty-nine counties list an hour or longer of a commute alone.

Okay, but is a long commute alone really a bad thing?

Let's take Elbert County, Colorado. It's only in the second quartile when it comes to "poor mental health days" ranks in the lowest (best) quartile in "poor physical health days." In other words, you can't easily draw a connection, at least not with one relatively well-off county. To really do this, we need to correlate all the county scores on mental and physical health with time commuting alone. That's a bit more challenging. See below:

Correlation of Minutes Commuting Alone With...
  • Poor Mental Health Days: r = .21
  • Lack Physical Activity: r = .34
So there is a correlation between minutes commuting alone and physical and mental health. As one increases, so does the other. But correlation is not causality. To really do this, we need to statistically control for other possible explanatory factors. For example, the number of kids in poverty is also correlated with long lonely commutes (r = .46), but there's no reason to believe they're related. Hell, I even found a small correlation between commuting alone and the percent of people in a county with sexually transmitted diseases (r = .06). I'm willing to bet they're also unrelated (then again ...)

If I really get bored, I may tackle a multivariate approach. But I'd have to be really really bored. It's not a terribly difficult job if I fold the data into SPSS, but I have a long list of other data projects waiting my attention, so feeding this blog is not a priority. My hunch is there is a small yet statistically significant relationship between long, lonely commutes and mental/physical health, but it's modest at best once you control for all the other factors, such as poverty.

Of Polls and Cicadas ...

Public opinion scholar Dick Yarbrough wrote a column recently in which he talks with an imaginary friend, Junior E. Lee. It's possible Yarbrough often talks to imaginary friends, but that's a different issue. Let's set aside the tired old crutch of conversing in a column with a make-believe foil and instead turn to his deep knowledge of public opinion and polling:
Junior said polling firms do that kind of thing so candidates will commission more polls and pollsters can make more money before they disappear until the next election cycle. He says pollsters are like cicadas who are here for a short time and then gone; particularly those pollsters who have no other skill sets to fall back on — like the pest control profession. While cicadas stay underground for 17 years, pollsters show up every election cycle. Junior says that is why he prefers cicadas. You don’t see them as much and they aren’t as noisy.
Point #1: When candidates commission polls the results are almost never released to the public. Those are called "internals." You release them only when it suits you, such as your candidate being far behind but your "in-house" pollster cooks the numbers in such a way as to make you see more viable than perhaps you really are.

Point #2: Yes, cicadas stay under ground, some for 17 years, some for 13 years. In Georgia it's Brood VI and it's a 17-year sleep. We wont' see 'em again until 2017, a year after the next presidential election. It really would have worked nicely had they returned in 2016.  Damn nature.

Point #3: You don't have to look at the polls if you find them noisy. I tend not to look at stupid newspaper columns, except when they include cutting-edge polling analysis.

Point #4: Agreed, not sure what other skills a pollster can fall back on, but a lot of them do other stuff. Take InsiderAdvantage, a Georgia company, as an example. While it's not a particularly high-rated polling outfit (stats guru Nate Silver gave it a "D" grade, it's still doing post-election analyses and advances on the next legislative session. 

Full Disclosure: Yarbrough has given generously to my college and UGA.


There is only one county in the U.S. where over half of all adults smoke. Scott County, Tennessee, has 51 percent of its adults listed as smokers, according to data on this site. While near the Kentucky border, it's not a huge tobacco growing county. It is in the fourth quartile among all U.S. counties in terms of premature death, in lack of physical or mental health, children in poverty, and unemployment.

A caveat -- some counties have relatively small sample sizes. Scott County's, for example, is 82, so the 95 percent confidence interval would be from 33 percent to 69 percent. Also, not all counties have data available. These data list the percent smoking for 2,713 of 3,144 counties.

The Top Smoking Counties

1. Scott (Tennessee)
2. Limestone (Texas)
3. Northwest Arctic (Alaska)
4. (tie) Ripley in Missouri and Upshur in Texas

And so on. The highest Georgia County is Lincoln, with 44 percent of its adults listed as smokers, ranked for 13th in the country. Kentucky counties appear regularly in the top of the list.

The lowest? Madison County, Idaho, followed by some Utah counties, no doubt a Mormon effect. The lowest Georgia county is Burke, with only 9 percent listed as adult smokers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Study Abroad

(update below)

UGA is ranked 17th in terms of total numbers of students who study abroad. That's pretty damn good and it's something Georgia encourages to the point of being obnoxious about it. Click on the link to see entire list, but it's clear the roots of some of the differences. One is location (major metro), another is being an expensive school, and the final is enrollment size. Me being me, I decided to deal with the latter and to see what schools do well controlling for enrollment.

I got most of my enrollment figures from this site, which is 2011 data, and figured what percentage of the total enrollment studied abroad. Most of the schools enroll more students now, but the differences between schools is minimal. Here and there I had to supplement with other data to flesh out the list and I'm not perfectly happy with some of the numbers. Still, here is the new and improved Top 10 (because I don't wanna type 20) for study abroad. See below. Notice right off how well smaller schools do in this format. And of course UGA cracks the list, coming in at 9th.

Study Abroad Ranked by Percent of Students
  1. George Washington University
  2. Northeastern University
  3. Miami (Ohio) University
  4. University of Pennsylvania
  5. New York University
  6. University of Southern California
  7. Boston University
  8. San Diego state University
  9. University of Georgia
  10. University of Michigan

I found some slightly better data. The list changes, with Northeastern taking first place, NYU moving up to 2nd, Penn at 3rd. UGA stays in 8th and Miami of Ohio drops to 9th. I suppose for Georgia readers the point remains the same -- UGA does well when you consider enrollment.