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The Scarlet & Black

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Corrected: Economics most popular major for 2013

Last week, the S&B printed the following article with the title, “History most popular major for 2013” on page 3. The headline incorrectly represented the data in the article and the graph: Economics, not history, is the most popular major for the class of 2013. The graph accompanying the article was ambiguously labeled and showed inaccurate information. The bars in the graph represented the percentage of the 2012 and 2013 classes enrolled in each major and each bar was labeled with the number of students in each department, not the percent. Additionally, the graph was based on inaccurate information and we did not cite a source for its data. The numbers were obtained from Registrar Cheryl Chase last Tuesday and, at the time, both parties failed to realize their inaccuracy.  Chase requested that we print the following statement:

“I provided data to the S&B on 4-19-11 on the majors by class as of that date.  The article they subsequently printed reflected that data with a couple of minor errors. Unfortunately, I did some double counting in my analysis and provided erroneous results.  I should have noticed that it reflected too many double majors. I am sorry for this error and take full responsibility for the mistake.  If it saves face for anyone or calms the waters, I will willingly be flogged in the public square.”

We apologize for the errors in last week’s issue. The S&B is dedicated to providing the Grinnell community with clear and accurate news. In order to provide the best news possible, we appreciate feedback from the community when an error or inaccuracy arises. The comments we received and the letters to the editor in response to our mistakes last week remind us to maintain the quality standards expected at this College.

—The Scarlet & Black

Economics most popular major for 2013:

Among the usual rushed appointments with advisors, frantic schedule generations and barrages of emails to professors, this pre-registration season, members of the Class of 2013 took another important step—they declared their majors.

Majors for the class of 2013. Click to view larger version.

As of last week, 262 second-year students declared their major.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, economics proved the most popular major as it often is. Derek Farnam ’13 feels that a degree in economics provides students with some basic skills in relation to a competitive job market.

“I think that a lot of people view it as probably the most lucrative major coming out of college as something that’s useful in terms of jobs,” Farnam said. “It’s something that won’t necessarily change in terms of how you think about it. Even if theories change over time there’s still tools that you can always use. So it’ll prepare people even when the workplace changes.”

Economics, in addition to mathematics and biology, was also one of the majors for which numbers seem relatively stable. The reasons for this vary across departments but many students feel that this largely has to do with the opportunities that the college presents for its students.

Allyse Helmich ’11, a member of the Biology SEPC, feels as though the unique opportunities and resources presented at Grinnell make it an ideal institution at which to pursue this major.

“I’ve been prepared so well. … The skills that we get here are so different than a lot of the skills that are emphasised at other institutions,” Helmich said. “I know for a fact that Grinnell students are sought after by grad schools and research institutions.”

Majors for the class of 2012. Click to view larger version.

The availability of unique resources extends to other areas such as history, which was not only the second most popular major amongst 2013-ers, but also the one which has gained the most popularity. These resources enrich the learning experience of students at Grinnell and enable them to view the subjects with a newfound appreciation.

“I remember when I came here Professor Silva took us to the Grinnell Archives and I was actually holding a 13th century sermon book,” said Kristina Duric ’13. “The thrill that you get from that is just unique.”

Aki Shibuya ’11, a history major and a member of the History SEPC, feels that the interdisciplinary nature of history and its role in determining events of national and international significance are a reason that people are increasingly drawn towards history as a major.

“History touches upon every subject, regardless of what discipline you actually go into, it creates a good basis. It’s a good way to evaluate where we are as a society and compare it to the past,” said Shibuya. “I think students are taking into account factors such as knowing the historical trajectory behind the things that get talked about at this school … politics, gay rights, gender … ”

With so many options, declaring a major is a big step in any Grinnellian’s life. The process of finding one thing that we are passionate about and sticking to it can be a stressful and confusing one. However, we can take solace in the fact that students here have the opportunity to change their declared majors and take courses in any of the 28 subjects that the college offers.

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    Samuel A. RebelskyApr 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    As I read the article on majors in the April 22 Scarlet and Black, I found my self increasingly dismayed at the mangling of quantitative information in that article. I have come to understand that the editors of the S&B observed two of the problems and have addressed these in the online version. In particular, the headline that inaccurately describes the data has been corrected and the confusing presentation of the data has been eliminated. I am not sure what led someone to decide to label the bars in the chart with an absolute number but make their width relative to the percentage of a class year that they represented, but everyone I have talked to has found the presentation significantly confusing.

    However, I note that these two concerns are comparatively minor compared to my other concerns, and neither of these broader concerns seem to have been addressed. First, many numbers presented in the chart are clearly inaccurate. I have heard from both majors and faculty that the numbers for their discipline are exaggerated or incorrect. I know that they are incorrect for my own discipline. These concerns about inaccuracy were confirmed by our Office of Institutional Research. That inaccuracy leads to the second problem: Nowhere in the chart or article or chart is the source of the data presented. As we teach in Tutorial, citation is essential to writing because it not only credits the originators of an idea or information, but also because it permits the reader to check claims about those sources. By failing to indicate the source of your information, you have neglected your responsibilities to your readers.

    As importantly, you have neglected your responsibilities to the College and its broader community. For better or worse, people rely on newspapers as an accurate source of information. Your inaccurate data are likely to be reused by others. I hope that I will soon see the online article updated with data from an accurate source (e.g., our Office of Institutional Research), data that are cited appropriately, data are that are presented clearly. Given the inadequacies of the April 22 piece, I also hope that you will take the effort to print a new article on these data, rather than a simple correction.