ARG-128

The following recommendation was made by the president and administrative staff of Grove College, a private institution, to the college's governing committee.

"Recently, there have been discussions about ending Grove College's century-old tradition of all-female education by admitting male students into our programs. At a recent faculty meeting, a majority of faculty members voted in favor of coeducation, arguing that it would encourage more students to apply to Grove. However, Grove students, both past and present, are against the idea of coeducation. Eighty percent of the students responding to a survey conducted by the student government wanted the school to remain all female, and over half of the alumnae who answered a separate survey also opposed coeducation. Therefore, we recommend maintaining Grove College's tradition of all-female education. We predict that keeping the college all-female will improve morale among students and convince alumnae to keep supporting the college financially."


Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.


In this argument, a debate is presented between the president of Grove College and the director of alumnae association regarding abandonment of the college’s century-old tradition of all-female education. Supporting this recommendation, the president cites other all-female colleges that adopted a similar education system and witnessed a subsequent increase in applications. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the director of the alumnae association who opposes the plan. Citing opinions of Grove’s incoming students and alumnae, both of whom endorse preserving the all-female tradition, the director argues that such a tradition is an essential college identity. Plausible as both sides of this debate may appear, in order to decide which recommendation is more reasonable, we need to ask more questions and the answers to these questions might help us settle on the ultimate decision.

To begin with, we need to raise a series of questions and the answers to these questions might contribute to confirming the causal relationship between the coeducation system and the increase in applications. Firstly, even though we are informed that adoption of the coeducation system was followed by an increase in applications in some all-female colleges, we may still wonder whether such an increase could occur in this case. Normally, an application increase might spring from various factors, such as excellent faculty with strong academic backgrounds, an appealing campus, for example, and in most cases those factors conspire to influence whether students decide to apply. Therefore, unless the president gives a positive answer showing that adoption of the coeducation system is the only reason responsible for the application increase, we remain unconvinced of such a system’s efficiency in attracting students. Secondly, even if the aforementioned causal relationship is confirmed, we need to question whether Grove College will experience a similar application increase by adopting the coeducation system. This question further behooves us to inquire the extent to which Grove College is analogical to other all-female colleges mentioned in the argument. If the president provides answers to demonstrate sufficient similarities between those colleges and Grove College, then we are inclined to accept his/her recommendation. Otherwise we reserve our approval.

Similarly, we should also carefully ponder the director’s assertion. Although the director shows us the incoming students’ ardor for Grovel College’s all-female status, we need to know how other students view such a status, since they may contribute to future application increase. If these potential students exhibit great interest in studying at Grovel even without the all-female status, then we should reconsider the director’s claim and maybe initiate the coeducational system. Likewise, what we also need to know is whether the respondents of the alumnae survey stand representative. Since the survey may have been biased in terms of its design, we need to ask whether only those who favor the all-female education responded to the survey. A positive answer to this question renders the director’s claim less convincing and a negative one lends it more credibility.

Finally, even if the president’s and the director’s assertions are sufficiently supported by authentic facts, in order to make a reasonable recommendation concerning the admission system of Grovel College, it is of great significance to take into consideration aspects other than application rate and college identity. If extra factors, such as college reputation, matters as much as or more than the aforementioned two factors, then we should give second thought to the two speakers’ recommendation.

To sum up, despite the passionate proposals put forward by the president and director, as well as the respective reasons they give, we should defer our conclusion about which is superior until the questions discussed above are carefully examined.

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