Fickle Users of Figures

The field of program evaluation has grappled with the political context of institutional performance measurement for decades. For libraries and universities, though, the politics of accountability is newer terrain. In some instances these organizations have unwittingly enrolled in a crash course on the subject, learning in real-time how volatile the process can be.

A prime example is the recent controversy about faculty productivity within the University of Texas System (UT). At the request of the its Board of Regents, UT released a 821 page spreadsheet disclosing detailed records on faculty compensation, course enrollment, class sections taught, research time allocations, and other related data. Each page of the document contains this curious disclaimer in red:

The data in its current draft form is incomplete and has not yet been fully verified or cross referenced. In its present raw form it cannot yield accurate analysis, interpretations or conclusions.

Essentially, they’re saying, “Well, here are our data, but they can’t be trusted . . .”
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