“The Case of the Two-Faced Data” by Rachel L. Rossetti

Introduction*
Jane had always loved English. When she decided to apply to graduate school, she had an excellent undergraduate
record and was an extremely strong candidate. Jane applied to the top Ph.D. programs in English. She was admitted
to seven out of the eight schools to which she applied—every school except her first choice, Bronte University. Jane
was not only heartbroken, she also truly didn’t understand how this could have happened. She was a perfect candidate.
Her advisor and other professors were also completely baffled. With the support of her friends, family and educators,
Jane decided to do a little research into what went wrong.
Question

  1. How does this story relate to the article you read, “Study shows gender bias in science is real” (Yurkiewicz, 2012)?
    *The data used throughout this case study is real and can be found in Bickel et al. (1975), but the identities and actions of those involved have
    been fictionalized.
    NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCE
    “The Case of the Two-Faced Data” by Rachel L. Rossetti Page 2
    Part I – A Strongly Worded Letter
    Bob Loblaw, Attorney at Law
    1 Lawyer Drive
    Mathematicstown, PI 31415
    Bronte University Graduate Admissions Office
    100 Thrushcross Grange Dr.
    Wuthering Heights, WH 121847
    To Whom It May Concern:
    My office is representing Ms. Jane Eyre. The purpose of this letter is to inform
    you that Ms. Eyre will be moving forward with a discrimination lawsuit
    against Bronte University.
    Ms. Eyre recently applied for admission to the Ph.D. program in English,
    and she possessed all the necessary qualifications. Unfortunately, she was not
    admitted due to unlawful discrimination.
    As is well known, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 “prohibits
    discrimination based on sex in education programs and activities that receive
    federal financial assistance.” Bronte University has a history of discrimination
    in the admissions process. For example, the table below breaks down the percent of women vs. men that were granted admission to your Ph.D. programs.
    Bronte University graduate admissions data.
    Applied Accepted Percent
    Women 449 113 25%
    Men 1097 527 48%
    The numbers speak for themselves. Bronte University admitted 48% of the
    males who applied and only admitted 25% of the female applicants. The evidence of discrimination is overwhelming, and Ms. Eyre is no exception. Thus,
    we will be seeking an overturned admissions decision, as well as a monetary
    settlement to cover emotional damages.
    Sincerely,
    Bob Loblaw
    Bob Loblaw
    Attorney at Law
    Questions
  2. Calculate the following.
    a. How many women were not granted admission?
    b. What percentage of women were not granted admission?
  3. Calculate the following.
    a. How many men were not granted admission?
    b. What percentage of men were not granted admission?
  4. Do you think gender discrimination played a role in Jane Eyre’s admission decision? Explain.
    NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCE
    “The Case of the Two-Faced Data” by Rachel L. Rossetti Page 3
    Bronte University Graduate Admissions Office
    100 Thrushcross Grange Dr.
    Wuthering Heights, WH 121847
    Bob Loblaw, Attorney at Law
    1 Lawyer Drive
    Mathematicstown, PI 31415
    Dear Bob Loblaw:
    Bronte University holds our applicants to the highest academic standards. Thus,
    we have a rigorous application process. We received an extremely high volume of
    applications this year, and many qualified candidates were not offered admission.
    We are sympathetic to Ms. Eyre’s situation, but we did not discriminate against her.
    The Bronte University Graduate program believes deeply in the importance of Title
    IX, and we do everything in our power to cultivate equality in all our programs.
    I did some searching in our records, and I found the data that you’re citing in your
    letter. You have combined two different departments and quoted total admission
    percentages. Below is a table that displays the same data broken down into two
    specific departments at Bronte.
    Bronte University graduate admissions data broken down by department.
    Applied Accepted Percent
    Department A
    Women 108 89 82%
    Men 825 511 62%
    Department B
    Women 341 24 7%
    Men 272 16 6%
    These data suggest that Bronte University actually favors female applicants, because
    in reality both departments admitted a higher percentage of women than men. In
    light of this information, we urge Ms. Eyre to drop her lawsuit against the university.
    Sincerely,
    Catherine Earnshaw
    Catherine Earnshaw
    Admissions Officer
    Bronte University
    Part II – A Reasonable Reply
    NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCE
    “The Case of the Two-Faced Data” by Rachel L. Rossetti Page 4
    Questions
  5. Use the data in Catherine Earnshaw’s letter to answer the following questions.
    a. How many total women applied?
    b. How many total women were accepted?
    c. What percentage of women who applied were accepted?
    e. How many total men applied?
    f. How many total men were accepted?
    g. What percentage of men who applied were accepted?
    h. Does this match the table in Bob Loblaw’s letter?
    Definition: A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.*
  6. Consider the data presented in the two letters, and explain the paradox illustrated by the Bronte University
    graduate admissions data.
  • Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradox. Accessed September 2014.
    NATIONAL CENTER FOR CASE STUDY TEACHING IN SCIENCE
    “The Case of the Two-Faced Data” by Rachel L. Rossetti Page 5
    Part III – It Seems Impossible!
    In an effort to come up with an explanation for this situation, let’s take a closer look at the data in Catherine
    Earnshaw’s letter.
    Questions
  1. Calculate the following.
    a. How many people (both men and women) applied to Department A?
    b. How many people (both men and women) were accepted by Department A?
    c. What is the total percentage of applicants that were accepted by Department A?
    d. How many people (both men and women) applied to Department B?
    e. How many people (both men and women) were accepted by Department B?
    f. What is the total percentage of applicants that were accepted by Department B?
  2. In general, the following three trends are observed among graduate school applications and admissions:
    • More women apply to Ph.D. programs in the humanities than in engineering.
    • Ph.D. programs in engineering receive more applications from men than women.
    • Engineering programs have more grant money and are able to admit more students than programs in the
    humanities.
    Assume that of the two departments, A and B, one is a department in the humanities and the other is an
    engineering department. Based on the data in Catherine Earnshaw’s letter, can you guess which is which?
    Explain.
ACED ESSAYS