Thursday, August 25, 2005


When Princeton Review did its recent ranking and Duke and Durham ranked 5th-worst in the area of town-gown relations, I immediately wondered about the methodology. Sure enough Princeton was up front that it is a self-selected survey and anecdotal only to those who responded. This means it just represents the opinion of those who responded.

The media picking up on the release, however, presented it in headlines as equal with the more scientific surveys that are based on mathematical probability and much more difficult to field.

Naturally, a community like Durham and a university like Duke will be misunderstood. People go at each other in search of solutions and excellence. Another community may seem tranquil, at peace, unified and just be oblivious and uncaring.

Maybe the news media is tripped up by the distinctions, maybe reporters and editors actually believe readers, listeners and viewers can make the distinction.

Either way, a community like Durham will get misinterpreted. I can’t count the number of times I’ve witnessed the Associated Press or even Google News get tripped up that twice the coverage is twice the news. Durham, by the way, is the only major community in North Carolina still covered by two major dailies, separately owned and competing for news.

Given a choice, though, I prefer a community that is alive and vibrant, if not always in synch and at peace, to one where everyone appears "out to lunch."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree. Contrary to the assumptions of the Princeton Review methodology, I would like to think that a community that openly discusses the good/bad of town-gown relations is much healthier than a community that never discusses town-gown at all. As a former resident of Asheville and student at UNC-Asheville at that time, I rarely saw town-gown issues discussed. It strikes me as a real-life example of your hypothetical college/community where relations are left undiscussed and therefore are strained.