Just Don’t Do It

Last night, my wife stabbed be in the chest with a pair of scissors. I spent the rest of the night in the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic). Don’t piss me off today. Just don’t.

This was Drill Sergeant Stringer, in June of 1982 at Ft. Benning, GA. It was a Sunday morning near the very end of Basic Training and Advanced Infantry Training. Somewhere along the way, one of the 30-plus young men of the second platoon did something to piss off Sergeant Stringer. In short order, he had us in formation in front of the office window, where he sat and directed us in grass drills (a form of physical training designed to wear you out).

Drill sergeants are supposed to be tough. Part of their job is to instill discipline and weed out the weakest. And those least able to show discipline. I spent a brief time as an acting drill sergeant while in the Army Reserves. It was an honor and a challenge. And not a career for me.

But, “Don’t piss me off,” still holds. Call me a hard-ass all you want (and apparently some have recently), but do it to my face. Quit making excuses about how the actions of others affect you and deal with your mission. I am as much of a hard-ass as I need to be fulfill my mission.

And I am not even talking about what I consider ethical lapses in providing bad data or making misleading statements on your website. That’s actually a whole other story.

It’s quite simple though. If your institution has a 62% graduation rate, 90% of students do not graduate in four years. Saying they do is wrong. The correct phrase is, “of our students who graduate, 90% do so in four years.” If your liberal arts college cannot be honest about that, then perhaps there are other problems that are deeper, more disturbing.

A colleague asked me about this on Friday. Is it likely that the best early indicators of failing college, one on the brink of closure, is the intentional misuse of data? Intentionally misleading prospective students about the quality and cost of an institution is something I find to be offensive, at the very least. So I wonder if we can develop an index of such things on the top pages of an institution’s web site and tie them to what we know about admissions, retention, and discount rates. I’ve written before that any private institution of fewer than 2000 students without a large graduate program (master’s program are often profit centers) and a first-year retention of less than 60% is one that should be on deathwatch unless it has a lot of unrestricted endowment.

Likewise, all institutions participating in Title IV financial aid programs, and all Virginia institutions requesting/receiving general fund support (including the tuition assistance grant)  must make certain disclosures on their website. The ability to identify and locate those disclosures would possibly be another good metric.

In other words, just don’t.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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