Professor calls out Dunn on data discrepancies

Haley Russell
Assistant News Editor

At the close of the monthly Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, Stephen Herr, assistant professor of education, handed out several documents including an article from the Murray Ledger & Times in which University President Randy Dunn reflected on his first five years as president of Murray State and the University’s rankings in magazines such as U.S. News and World Report and Forbes.

Herr highlighted the last paragraph of the article where Dunn was quoted describing the health of the University.

“There’s this line that physicians and other health care providers use, that first, you do no harm,” Dunn was quoted in the article. “I think, for me, that’s been important. Coming to Murray State, obviously a well-known institution nationally, performing very well, I didn’t want to do anything, obviously, to interfere with that … we’ve been able to sustain and even improve our quality indicators. Whether you’re talking U.S. News and World Report or Forbes or the Chronicle of Higher Education or any of these other agencies, we’ve been performing just as strongly in the eyes of those third-party rating agencies.”

The following pages of the packet Herr compiled is a spreadsheet with statistics in Murray State’s overall score, academic reputation score, retention rates, class numbers, student faculty ratios, full-time faculty, freshmen in the top 25 percent of their high school class, acceptance rates and alumni giving rates from 2002 to 2011.

Herr focused the Senate’s attention to average freshman retention rates, average graduation rates and freshmen enrolled that were in the top 25 percent of their graduating high school class.

Average freshmen retention rates have decreased from 77 percent in 2007 to 73 percent in 2011. Average graduation rates have declined from 57 percent to 52 percent and the number of enrolled freshmen who were among the 25 percent of their high school class has dwindled from 65 percent to 43 percent.

Herr said though Dunn’s comments in the Ledger indicate the University is thriving the data shows otherwise.

“What the data tells us, is that over the last several years, in the eyes of the U.S. News and World Report, we are not ‘performing just as strongly’ but rather we have been experiencing a period of significant institutional decline,” he said.

Herr said he brought the information to Faculty Senate before he released it to any other administrative group on campus and that he hopes the Senate will review and consider it.

“I’m just concerned about the misinformation out there in the public and sort of as a shared government obligation I think it was important for the Senate to at least be making, in a public forum, that we recognize the fact that there is information that is incorrect,” he said.

In Herr’s brief speech to the Senate, he also informed members of a misinformation debacle at Claremont McKenna College in California where vice president and dean of admissions made exaggerated claims regarding the university.

After the president of the College, Pamela Gann, initiated an investigation, the senior administrator accepted the responsibility for his actions and resigned.

Herr said there are obvious discrepancies between Dunn’s claims in the Ledger and the data that has been collected.

“Well it seems clear to me that what he said doesn’t correspond with the data and that’s a concern,” he said.

Herr said he hopes the administration corrects its mistakes.

Faculty Senate will meet again April 3 and will discuss the information given at Tuesday’s meeting.