Jan 16, 2007, 10:18 PM
Post #338 of 764
Re: [Clench Million] Don't yell at me, but...
[In reply to]
I really appreciate that you are "willing to give me the benefit of the doubt," especially as you call me "delusional" in the same breath. But I won't be baited. The fact is, wrong assertions by you and by others have never been clarified during the course of this discussion, whereas I've been peppered with questions and had clarifications demanded of me--even though I'm the one who's done all the research here, and thus the one who statistically has the best chance of knowing what the heck they're talking about.
For instance, I was told that the "200 standard minimum APP" measure used in the second Selectivity Index (now scrapped in favor of an indexing I find more useful) was insane because tons of schools ranked in the top fifty don't get 200 applications a year. So, I investigated. And I found a proposal from the faculty of the University of New Hampshire to create an MFA at that school which included data unavailable elsewhere (in case you can't read between the lines here, it wasn't available elsewhere because the UNH professors got it directly from their colleagues at the other schools). The proposal was informative in that it gave me a sense of scope in determining how many applications certain schools likely receive (and how many applications a just-born real-life program would expect, come budget/number-crunching time). Here's what I learned from research (NB: Clench, what research have you done, by the way, to have the gall to call me "delusional"? You've no idea what work I've done on this):
* Hollins College had 201 applications during its very first year in operation. I would note that Hollins College is not, generally speaking, an exceedingly well-known college (albeit, regionally it is), so one can only imagine the sort of first-year numbers seen by the several major universities that started MFA programs in the past ten years.
* At Northern Michigan University--another relatively small school--applications increased by 600% in the first three years of the program. Even assuming a pathetic application base in the school's first year (say, 25 students, a random number), that would mean 150 students applying to the school (!) by the end of three years. And again, a) this is only for the first three years of the program, and b) this is a fairly small school (reputation-wise) that we're talking about.
* California's College of the Arts (CCA) MFA program increased in size by 750% over its first four years, going from eight students to sixty.
Again, nothing here suggests that top programs get less than 100 applications a year, but the claim was made, and no one challenged it. Likewise, the claim was once made on Tom Kealey's website that Columbia "probably" was the only school other than Iowa which got more than 1000 applications a year. Not true. There are just so many myths going around. Hopper said Cornell had a lower acceptance rate than Brown "by a fairly large margin"--it turned out to be 0.6% at most, and, if in a given year Cornell had an APP on the low end of its spectrum and Brown had an APP on the high end of its spectrum, the schools would actually have the same acceptance rate if you rounded, as all normal people do, to the nearest percentage point. But hey, who cares, right? Well, I do, because I've been trying to get things right, and have fixed things when they've been wrong (see the second Selectivity Index, now scrapped for better) and still I've got guys like you, Clench, breathing down my neck--largely because you just don't want efforts like these made in the first place. Far better for Columbia to have an unearned excellent reputation than to know that, of the 17 schools in the country whose acceptance rate can be conclusively determined, Columbia ranks 13th. I can't recall how you explained that fact away in your response, Clench, but I'm damn sure it was somewhere in there. It had to be.
The reason you keep harping on TKE, Clench, is because all the stuff I've done since then has been hard data-related, so you've got to go back to the first ranking I did, which I admitted was the work of a single individual--but which I pointed out was worth looking at anyway, because that individual had done more research than anyone in the country on the subject of MFAs (and still holds that honor), and moreover was the first in the country to create a funding-weighted assessment of schools. You keep trying to posture here, trying to convince folks I wasn't honest about what I did with TKE. I'm a little sick of that game, frankly, because you're attempting to implicate my integrity and you've no cause to do that.
You'll also note that I did internal validity checks by comparing TKE to the LJPW. You say the sample size for LJPW was too small, I say that's wrong, because, for instance, the Granite State/UNH Poll (for the state I live in, New Hampshire) routinely only polls 200 people for a state of 1.2 million people, in order to determine "our" political inclinations. While I've admitted we can't know the bias of web-users versus non-web-users, no one yet has made any compelling case for why, say, you'd like Brown if you use the internet, but would like George Mason, instead, if you don't. [NB: A recent national poll shows that the vast majority of high-schoolers use the internet, so given that we're talking here about individuals who self-select for graduate-school work, how many people do you think are in that group that don't use the internet?].
Likewise, I from the outset compared the LJPW to the "coaches' poll" in college football--did you miss that?--because the NCAA coaches' poll is, similar to the LJPW, a) taken from a small sample-size, b) does not include random responders, and c) does not make any effort to ensure that its responders are "representative" of anything. Yet the poll is published in newspapers across the country every day during football season. Of course, now that we're in Clench's territory, only perfection will suffice; I mean, did no one find it odd when Hopper said my rankings weren't useful because they only contained publicly-available information from the internet? Is the new standard for Speakeasy polling that it can, paradoxically, only contain information that is not publicly available? Give me a break here. Some of you are being contrary just to be contrary--it's a very small sub-set of the group, but it's certainly the most vocal.
Your comments about Columbia, Clench, are frankly not worth responding to. They're no more informed than my throw-away comment that Columbia's applications may well have declined in the past decade. Have they? I don't know, and I wasn't claiming to know, I say I "suspected"--in other words, I was guessing. Yet you, again, are doing no research and then peddling your opinions as somehow worthy of discussion here. In contrast, I've presented only a) Tom Kealey's opinions, and then b) hard data--never "my own" opinions--and also have done the necessary research to responsibly catalogue the resultant findings.
"Large programs like Iowa and Columbia accept a lot of people, but being top programs they get amongst the best applications."
Um, where do you draw this conclusion from? And why wouldn't this also apply to the fifteen other schools which were in the top 25 both in 1997 and now? Why is Columbia special in this sense, such that a rising tide does not lift all boats, only Columbia's and Iowa's?
"A program like Iowa or Columbia might get 600 applications, but immediately 400 of them are tossed out after reading the work."
I'm the editor of a literary journal, Clench. You've just described the submissions process for every even moderately-sized literary journal in America and every MFA program in America. Are you pulling my leg here?
"OTOH, there are programs who only get a handful of applications."
No, there aren't, actually. The lowest application pool I've ever seen (60) is for an MFA program in Alaska, and a) the data's old, and b) the program's small. So what research did you do to draw your conclusions here? Any?
You continue to presume that less well-known programs have fewer qualified candidates applying, yet a) smaller programs offer better funding to qualified candidates than larger, more well-known programs do (I'm sure you remember the two people last year--right here at PW!--who chose Florida State and Brooklyn College over Columbia, don't you?), and b) people often choose where to go based on location and logistics (where the average age of an MFA student is 28, you have to understand family considerations come first). My favorite anecdote from last year is the person who applied to CUNY (Hunter), NYU, The New School, Brooklyn College, and Columbia and only got into the "best" school, Columbia! The data I've collected explains that; your personal speculation on "how things work" doesn't (folks like you always hate rankings, but have discernible ideas on "how things work" which can't ever be tested in the real world; convenient).
"Smaller programs like Cornell or Johns Hopkins often have a fixed amount of students they bring in. But larger programs like Iowa and Columbia do not."
Yes, and that goes equally for Adelphi University, Georgia State University, and San Francisco State University, all of which have enormous programs. Your point? Or is this another point which somehow "only" applies to large schools when those large schools are named Iowa and (more importantly) Columbia? It's hard not to get frustrated with you, Clench, as much I know you're probably (?) well-meaning.
"Most of the numbers you have there, for all the programs not just Columbia, are just general estimates or out of date and inaccurate. I personally don't trust a single one, especially since you don't source them or give me any reason to trust any of them."
Well, none of them, at the moment, are estimates. And they're all as accurate as the schools themselves allowed them to be, for that's where I got them.
But that's no matter: the important this is, with the above quote you've finally written something I understand and which actually matters to me. So, in response: Please stop reading the rankings, Clench. They upset you. And moreover you clearly don't get them, or care to, and I don't want to waste more of your time. If you ever decide to change your mind, the few thousand people who've already read the rankings on TSE (hundreds of whom have returned for multiple visits) might be able to explain them to you better than I can.
P.S. As to your repeated protestations (which protesteth a little too much, methinks) that while you go to Columbia you have no bias in favor of Columbia: alright, I get it, you're pure as driven snow! :-) In answer to your question about "yield"--a term you'd know if you knew polling--the Selectivity Indexes explicitly address yield, first of all, and second of all, that's the same problem all rankings have, and it doesn't invalidate them, sorry. [One reason it doesn't invalidate them is that studies on law schools have shown that yields do not actually vary that widely "in-tier"; that is, with the exception of one or two schools in the top tier who have an insane yield (think Princeton, for undergrad), most schools are within 10% or so of one another, making the effect on rankings noticeable but not statistically significant. While I'll concede that the effect is greater for MFA programs, once again, it would only move most schools a few spots in one direction or another, and there's no way to find out yield anyway, so your comment is the same as saying we can never do MFA rankings because there will always be a flaw. Which is a position I don't accept as valid, as there's no reason to support the notion that anything in this world need be flawless].
(This post was edited by umass76 on Jan 16, 2007, 10:24 PM)