Dr. David Lanoue, Provost and VPAA, Southern Arkansas University
Dr. Lanoue became the first person to visit the 2016 Honors Seminar class today. He assumed the position of Provost and VPAA on 1 July 2016. Previously, he was Dean of Liberal Arts at Hawaii Pacific University.
He began his talk listing the many duties and responsibilities of his office. He is responsible for anything that falls under the label of "academic" at SAU. However, unlike the CEO of a business he is constrained by tradition, shared governance, and academic freedom, meaning that unlike a business leader he cannot rule by fiat. He noted that was a good thing.
He pointed out that his was a small office consisting of himself, Associate Provost David Crouse, and administrative assistant Keisha Crisp. He hoped that none in the audience would ever need deal with Dr. Crouse given that his main role is meting out discipline for academic dishonesty.
Next, Lanoue listed some of the duties of his office:
- Meeting with Deans and Department Chairs
- Meeting with the President and other Vice Presidents
- Academic Personnel Issues
- Coordinating Plans by Multiple Colleges
- All Aspects of Student Success
- Coordinating with Academic Support Units (Library, Graduate School, and the Registrar)
Many of these topics will be covered by the Honors Seminar later in the semester.
Lanoue then described his professional life as a political scientist. He lamented describing himself as such to the public (especially to chatty airline passengers) because he argued that political scientists are not pundits but are often perceived as such. His interest in the science of politics.
He went on to discuss the history of polling, its methodology, and some of the statistical and probabilistic science behind it. He confessed that in the 2016 election he and some of his fellow political scientists have failed to stick to their science in analyzing Trump's successes in the Republican primaries. We should have followed the numbers, he said.
Polls work, he said. But, there can be problems including sampling error, rogue polls (those that, by chance, fall outside of the 95% confidence interval), and worst of all, bias. Sampling errors and rogue are easily cured by additional polling. Bias, however, is a different story.
The 1936 Literary Digest poll predicting the election of Alf Landon over FDR was one of the first examples of a biased poll. Unlike for sampling errors or rogue polls, once a bias is introduced it cannot be repaired by additional polling.
In the 1936 example the Literary Digest polled its subscribers by telephone. Unfortunately, most of those subscribers were Republicans. Thus, the poll missed the mark widely when FDR won in a landslide. He added that sources of bias include: non response, undercoverage, and lying.
He reminded the class that polls are snapshots. He illustrated that by the polls in a recent election in Hawaii. There, the incumbent was 18 points behind a few days before the election but lost by nearly twice as many points on election day. Independent voters, he said, made up their mind in the interval.
Modern pollsters have learned from the mistakes of the past and are much better at gauging public opinion. They also possess more useful models of voting behavior than in the past. He finished by showing the famous photo of Harry S Truman holding up the Chicago Tribune's headline: Dewey Defeats Truman. Of course, that did not happen. When all of the votes were counted, Truman won.