THE WAY WE ARE: The way we are is really quite sad!


Part 5—Good-bye, east end of Cambridge:
How many undergraduate women get raped while students at MIT?

We have no idea. In part, that’s because we’ve perused MIT’s report on the subject, which is extremely murky. In part, it’s because we read the New York Times news report about this important topic.

Ideally, young people shouldn’t get assaulted on MIT’s campus, or anywhere else. Perhaps with that thought in mind, the MIT brass composed and conducted a voluntary survey about every conceivable aspect of students’ sexual lives.

Many students completed the survey; the majority of students did not. MIT then composed a bewildering report about the survey’s findings.

Can we talk? If MIT students composed such a survey, we will guess that the school’s professors would have raised two questions:
Possible questions from the professors:
How did these kids ever get in this school?
Who put these kids in my class?
The news report by the Times was no better. Richard Perez-Pena never cited the most straightforward statistic to emerge from the survey: five percent of undergraduate women who took the survey said they’ve been raped while at MIT.

Perez-Pena had a larger question in mind: Why won’t the youngsters admit that they’re being “sexually harassed” when they hear dirty jokes?

How many undergraduates get raped while students at MIT? There’s no way to tell from the survey.

That five percent figure seems troubling to us. But there’s no way to know what kinds of experiences these young women were listing as “rapes.” Nor is there any apparent sign that adult elites even care.

Beyond that, the nature of this survey likely means that the five percent figure is a bit of an understatement.

Many respondents to the survey were freshmen and sophomores. One can imagine that the percentage claiming rape must have been higher among women in their senior year. But since no one actually seems to care about any of this, MIT didn’t release such figures, and the New York Times didn’t ask.

In our view, the numbness of that Times report makes it a piece for the ages. Believe it or not, this is the sort of thing that has Perez-Pena tearing his hair:
PEREZ-PENA (10/28/14): There was a similar result on sexual harassment. Among undergraduate respondents, large majorities of men and women said they had heard sexist remarks and inappropriate comments about people’s bodies; more than one-third said someone had uttered crude sexual remarks to them directly; nearly as many had been subjected to people’s tales of sexual exploits; and a smaller number had received offensive digital messages. About one woman in six said someone had repeatedly asked her for a date, even after being refused.

But the number who described what had happened to them as sexual harassment was relatively small: 15 percent of undergraduate women, and 4 percent of men.
Five percent of undergraduate women say they’ve been raped while students at MIT?

At the Times, Perez-Pena skipped that statistic entirely. He’s upset because the youngsters won’t say they’ve been “sexually harassed” when exposed to “sexist remarks!”

The original survey, MIT’s report, and the news report in the Times form an unholy trifecta. Boyden Gray's daughter then came along, sweetly reciting for Time.

Here’s what we almost thought we saw when we perused these sad examples of our elite culture:

We almost thought we saw the pitiful practice in which we liberals try to embellish preferred statistics, thereby aping the methods of Fox. We’ll mention a gruesome example:

Everyone knows that women are not paid 77 cents on the dollar “for doing the same work as men.” Still, we modern liberals love that claim. We seem to be willing to dissemble and lie in order to sustain it.

Similarly here:

In the course of a multiply bungled survey, 11 percent of undergraduate women directly said they’ve been sexually assaulted or raped while students at MIT.

A serious person might be disturbed by a figure like that. At MIT, though, that number may not have been high enough. So the commissars imposed their own definitions, which were never quite explained.

Presto! We could now say that 17 percent of undergraduate women said they’ve been sexually assaulted! And as her students get raped and assaulted, the chancellor clucks about the way the kids won’t admit how often they’re being harassed.

How many MIT students get raped and/or assaulted? We don’t have the slightest idea. Nor does anyone seem engaged in an attempt to find out.

To appearances, we’re trying to generate pleasing statistics—the kind we can cluck and worry about at our cocktail parties.

Increasingly, this is the way our liberal elites pretend to do politics. We then wonder why those Iowa rubes won’t vote in the ways we demand.

Links to MIT documents: To peruse the survey, just click here.

To examine MIT's report, you can just click this.


  1. Ah yes. Bob is now reduced to dismissing the entire MIT survey because it doesn't answer a question that no survey could possibly answer with any degree of certainty: "How many undergraduate women get raped while students at MIT?"

    This survey was designed to give MIT officials an indication of the scope of the sexual assault problem, as well as direction on the programs needed to address it. It claims to be no more than that, and even warns that since it was "self-selected", the results cannot be extrapolated to the entire student population despite the large (35 percent) return rate.

    But only a fool would continue to go on for days and days about how this survey is utterly without worth because he can reach into the preposterous to claim he knows what it should have been.

    And then Bob resorts to mind-reading:

    "Perez-Pena had a larger question in mind: . . ."

    "He’s upset because the youngsters won’t say they’ve been “sexually harassed” when exposed to “sexist remarks!”"


    1. Somerby's work is so impressive that not a single response to his many posts has elicited a response from anyone claiming to have any direct or indirect connection with MIT.

      Somerby leaves the Boston area much as he did a child and college graduate. Unnoticed.

    2. I have posted here repeatedly and I have an indirect connection to MIT -- I was there for two years. That I posted repeatedly without stating my connection means only that I didn't think it relevant to mention. I don't think this has any implications for assessing Somerby's impressiveness.

    3. This is true. Once upon a time, Bob's work was considered influential enough for the people in charge of NAEP to issue quite the public knock-it-off rebuke of his attempts to use their work to arrive at conclusions the test was never designed to measure.

      I guess now he's just a cranky, egotistical old gadfly, whose blog is amusing only because he makes it so easy to knock him off his high horse.

    4. Yes, 11:25, you have an "indirect connection to MIT." And I play back up middle linebacker for the Detroit Lions.

    5. Based on your level of traumatic brain injury, I suspect you are telling the truth.

    6. NAEP didn't issue any knock-it-off to Somerby.

    7. Wrong.

    8. Yes, KZ keeps posting this too. It quotes Somerby as an example of a large number of people who have referred to a rough rule of thumb about how many points on the NAEP are equivalent to a grade level of progress. Somerby did not originate that rule of thumb and he always refers to it as "rough," as is appropriate. The paper you cite examines whether use of that rule of thumb is accurate for purposes where more precise measurement is necessary, specifically in cross-grade comparisons. It doesn't tell Somerby or anyone else to "knock it off" -- that is your hostility speaking. Although the study was commissioned by a NAEP panel, it was conducted by academics and does not constitute any official NAEP statement, much less any cease-and-desist.

      But you can throw this claim around and credulous people may be influenced by it. KZ certainly believes it, but that isn't company anyone should want to be in, Irishguy.

    9. Nice spin, but the the paper says that no such "rule of thumb" exists at all. Regardless of who invented it (as if repeating a lie is an excuse), it is not appropriate to call a non-existent rule of thumb "rough."

      And the paper specifically names Somerby as a particularly egregious offender.

      Now a wise man, having been so rebuked, might knock it off, while a fool would continue to repeat the same lie over and over again.

      I'll leave it to you to decide who is "credulous" or not, but you have in front of you a paper directly contradicting, and quite extensively refuting the "rough rule of thumb" while naming Somerby as an offender.

      Yet you think it's okey-dokey for Somerby to say this until doomsday as long as Somerby calls it "rough" and as long as he wasn't the first to make this rather grossly overreaching error in statistical analysis

    10. KZ doesn't believe it, but that doesn't stop you, as a BOBfan, from acting like the blogger and attributing beliefs to us. We could tell you what your intelligence "seems" to be based on that kind of comment and whose company it "suggests" you keep, but we won't.

      We will mention we have so many digits on our multiple appendages, we would be confused if we devised rules based on their measurements. We frankly don't score high enough on NAEP math tests to keep up with the numbers. Oh, and by the way, the author of the NAEP panel commissioned study did say the "rough rule" was "all thumbs" when it came to math test score cross grade comparisons. To use a rough metaphor.

    11. FOAD KZ. You serve no useful purpose here or on this earth.

    12. Whilst this able representative of BOBfandom @ 1:51 was composing his thoughtful commentary, we revisted the conclusion of Professor Thissen, linked above by irishguy. For purposes of futher informed debate we offer it here in abbreviated form. Thanks to irishguy you can read it in full if you think we misrepresent.

      "Validity evidence can and should be assembled to support, and make more precise, interpretive statements of the first kind (“one year’s growth”). “How many NAEP scale points is one year’s growth?” is a question users of the scores can sensibly ask; there should be an answer. It is not difficult to obtain the answer; it is merely expensive.
      Interpretive statements of the second kind (cross-group comparisons across four-year spans) should probably be more actively discouraged."

      BOB's work is cited as an example of the "first kind" in Professor Thissens study. BOB has engaged in comparisons of the "second kind" in this blog but such work is not cited by Thissen.

    13. It's unfair to say that KZ serves no useful purpose here. If he does nothing else, then he serves as a bad example and the setting for the zero on the troll scale.

      And let's not forget the spell casting reports. I love those. YMMV.

    14. The survey could accurately measure what surveys can measure, namely the response to its queries. For example, "Have you been raped?" where "rape" means someone has penetrative sex with you against your will or when you were unable to give your consent. The percentage of people answering "yes" wouldn't tell us how many people were actually raped, just how many people claimed to have been raped. But, of course, nobody expects the survey to give the former statistic, although trolls will continue to claim that TDH does. TDH says that the survey is unclear. Do you have a counterargument?

      I didn't think so.

      One of the delights of troll-watching here is the trolls who can't or won't understand a blog entry, and then dismiss explanations from "Bobfans." That's right, some people felt the "need to explain" because you failed to demonstrate the capacity to understand. Guess whose fault that is?

    15. Here's the big rebuke from the NAEP:

      Somerby notes in his “warning” that the “rule of thumb” (10 points per year, for the NAEP reading scale) used throughout his interpretation of score change is not officially sanctioned. Nevertheless, this description of the results clearly places them in a context that could make the scores more comprehensible for many who want to interpret NAEP results.

    16. Ah, great! We're cherry-picking! Can I play?

      "This paper ultimately seeks to make two points: (1) Different evidence is needed to support the two categories of interpretive statements described above, and (2)
      Insufficient evidence is currently available to support either category of interpretations for NAEP. Either further research is required to support either or both of these classes of interpretations, or greater clarity is needed in the presentation of NAEP results to discourage such interpretations."


      Somerby’s blog commentary used this same kind of “rule of thumb” (a rounded, divided-by-four value of the four-year change in average reading scores on the NAEP scale) as “one year’s growth.” Given the expected decelerating nature of growth on assessment scales commonly used to measure academic achievement, that is clearly wrong."


      'If “one year’s growth” is to be useful as a value that makes points on the score scale more meaningful, it would be useful to know if the empirical average value of “one
      year’s growth” is very different for students at different levels of the score scale or from different demographic backgrounds. Because values for “one year’s growth”
      are not currently available, the answers to these questions are unknown."

    17. Professor Thissen?

      Another egghead?

      Is he young?

      Is he elitely educated?

      Is he a she?

    18. For those who fail to demonstrate the capacity to understand deadrat's misleading quote from the NAEP Valididty Panel's discussion of BOB's BIG BLOG ROUGH RULE, he is not discussing the conclusion, from which we quoted above, but their initial description of BOB's use of the BIG ROUGH RULE.

      The description of BOB's disclaimer is tame to say the least. In the post of BOB's cited in the study, from April 7, 2010, here is how BOB warns us about judging progress using his thumb.

      "Warning! This “rough rule of thumb” is very rough; we long for the day when some major newspaper asks NAEP officials to discuss the meaning of these score gains in some serious detail. (Along with other true experts.) But this rough rule of thumb has been widely used; its surface logic is apparent. (Don’t ask.) If we do apply that rough rule of thumb, those score gains seem quite consequential."

      In other words, don't ask, just go with what "seems" consequential. It is "apparent."

      As the study notes from deadrat's short quote, using BOB"S rule "could make the scores more comprehensible for many." Alas, the study concludes that lack of expensive studies to validate such measurements make them, how shall we say this politely, of dubious real world value.

      deadrat in the past has cherry picked other quotes from Professor Thissen to make it sound like he thinks 10 points = 1 academic year is close. Language in the study does this, but only for fourth grade reading. For math, Thissen notes, BOB may need to take his spare thumb out of his ass. So to speak. Roughly.

    19. Sure, you can play, irishguy. We call that mainstreaming. For all the technical reasons that make the rough rule of thumb very rough, it still could make things more comprehensible.

      But go ahead and join KZ and pretend that TDH is making things up and recklessly using measures without the appropriate caveats.

      Maybe KZ will give you some of his meds as a reward. He's obviously not using them.

    20. Lordy, there are none so blind as a true believer.

      Deadrat, there is no measure. No matter how many "rough" or "very rough" caveats you issue, there is no "rule of thumb".

      Perhaps an analogy might explain better. Do you own a dog? If so, go find a pile in your backyard and spray it with air freshner.

      Did it turn into roses by a "very rough rule of thumb"? Or is it still smell dog shit with an artificial hint of roses that barely begins to mask the odor?

    21. I don't own a dog. I just read the shit posted by the various Anonymi for the experience.

      And I don't have to walk them.

      So maybe it's not ten points to a year. Would scaling it to half a year for everyone make you happier? Or perhaps you'd like to suggest a rule of thumb that would match the media narrative of failing schools.

  2. I think Somerby is drawing a valid conclusion when he asserts that the Chancellor and others involved with this survey seem more concerned with how students are defining sexual harassment than measuring the incidence of rape or assault on campus. I think he is also correct when he says the reporters involved followed the lead of those they interviewed in writing their stories.

    The dismissive tone of these comments about Somerby's complaints seems odd to me. I find myself wondering why people think Somerby is a bigger problem than the incidence of rape on college campuses, something they have had no interest whatsoever in discussing.

    Somerby today states his point very clearly. He says he is concerned about the manufacture of outrage among liberals over things like how sexual harassment is defined, and the inflation of statistics to make that seem like a bigger problem than it may be. It seems highly likely that students (18-21 year olds) might not recognize that the kind of language they hear regularly in high school is regarded as a form of sexual harassment among adults, especially in academia. I think they learn that after taking their courses on ethnicity and sexuality, where they learn to consciously examine their life experiences in the framework of various ideas. The kind of behavior that occurs among teens is not tolerated in the workplace but these are kids who most likely have only held the kinds of jobs teens get, so they are unaware that the stakes get higher as they grow up.

    Sexual predators and predators of other kinds (religious evangelists and scientologists/cult recruiters, credit lenders, vendors of silly merchandise, military recruiters) are attracted to campuses because displaced kids are more vulnerable than adults. It is more appropriate to worry about how to prevent rapes than to worry about how kids think and talk about their sexual experiences, in my opinion. If those why developed the survey did so with that intention, the chancellor and others should have made that plainer. Nevertheless, when kids don't recognize mistreatment that may signal greater danger, that is a cause for concern.

    1. I see. The "dismissive tone" is only that of his critics, not of Somerby for dismissing a survey because it didn't measure what no survey could possibly measure with the degree of accuracy he demands.

    2. And I see that although Somerby explains his point "very clearly," you feel the need to explain it further -- with added spin to boot.

      Always handy to have Bobfans around.

    3. That is odd, isn't it -- that some people who read this blog actually are "fans" of it?

    4. No. Why would it be odd? Rush Limbaugh has a lot of fans, too.

    5. Out of all the provocative statements I made about campus sexual harassment, the only thing you guys want to comment about is Somerby. Why don't you guys get a life?

    6. Perhaps your statements aren't quite as "provocative" as you thought.

    7. Two commenters commented about Somerby and two didn't. Why don't you get a pair of reading glasses?

    8. Nobody commented substantively.

    9. By your definition of "substantively."

    10. You really want a substantive response to your comment @ 11:39?

      I think Somerby is not drawing a valid conclusion because it fits all the other conclusions he draws on a variety of topics, namely it is based on his perceptions and his twisting news accounts to include things which are never said and to leave out things which are said. You, like Somerby, appear to rely to much on what "seems" rather than what "is."

      You state Somerby is clear in his concern over manufactured outrage? Somerby is the one doing the inventing here.

      As a result, your explanation of what you think is "highly likely" is based on nonsensical presentations like "He’s upset because the youngsters won’t say they’ve been “sexually harassed” when exposed to “sexist remarks!”
      There is no factual basis to state Perez-Pena even hinted at an emotion much less over the source Somerby makes up for causing that emotion.

      I found your explanation of sexual predators (and the comparsion of them to military recuiters) highly amusing. he MIT report indicates the problem is with predators primarily drawn to campus because they are fellow students of the victims.

      Perhaps the reason your provocative remarks drew so little attention is people feel sorry for the level of intellect portrayed in them.

  3. LOL! That survey actually contains a "trigger warning." Truly, all is lost.

    1. Why is that funny? Do you really not understand the aftermath of being raped and why trigger warnings are important when asking questions that might evoke memories? Is PTSD only important when it affects soldiers?

    2. Well, gee, I think that the nature of the study makes it pretty clear. If you've been raped, and someone asks you to fill out a study meant to gauge levels of sexual assault and rape on campus, I think you'd know right away that you may invoke traumatic memories when filling out that study.

      That's not why this was done: it was done because this is a big SJW thing, and if they hadn't included it, SJWs would have bitched and moaned about. It's the same as why they included *4* gender choices, with the 4th option being open-ended.

    3. No, if you are a 17-21 year old kid, you may not realize that answering such questions would cause you to re-experience a traumatic event. These kids don't know how memory works. They might intellectually want to answer such a survey because of their experience, not realizing that emotionally they aren't up to it.

      MATT, assuming you have never been raped, why do you think you know anything about what someone who has been raped would know or feel right away?

      If you pride yourself on living in a reality-based world with an understanding of current science, why would you be so resistant to the idea that thinking of sexuality in a binary way is a cultural invention that obscures the FACT that people vary sexually along a continuum. Allowing more categories makes it easier for people who don't fit neatly into the binary (M/F) to describe themselves. Because people who are not good fits for the two-category system may be more likely to be targets of harassment, providing such an opportunity makes it a better survey. Laughing at this as some sort of SJW thing makes you as ignorant as the climate deniers. But who knows -- maybe you laugh at the idea of global warming too -- I don't know you well enough to evaluate how clueless you are across-the-board.

    4. 147: the tipoff to this clown is his SJW tumblr crap.

    5. I wonder. Does Bob's deep concern over raped children make him an SJW?

      Or does Matt realize that Somerby is merely regurgitating a long-standing right-wing canard that feigns such concern by accusing "liberals" of trivializing rape with their concern for victims of all forms of sexual assault?

    6. 340: you weren't alerted with LOL?

  4. OMB (What seems to concern the OTB)

    We wondered how long this insightful source of "musings on the mainstream media" would take to focus on what seemed to be the muser's central point.

    Today, in Post # 6, down in paragraph 6, our One True BOB finally managed to hit on the one fact which could have made this series worthy of a good single post.

    "Richard Perez-Pena never cited the most straightforward statistic to emerge from the survey: five percent of undergraduate women who took the survey said they’ve been raped while at MIT."

    That is true and most certainly should have been first thing mentioned by BOB in his critique.

    Instead we were treated to 5 posts of musings about what "seemed," in BOB's mind at least, to be important to Perez-Pena and everyone else mentioned by name in the original article.

    We got snarky speculation on the multiple languages in which survey questions were written. We got hyperbolic nonsense about the length of the survey. We got repeated false statements that the date of the survey was undiclosed.

    We even got a description of how many times Perez-Pena appeared on Jeopardy! before BOB's murky meanderings landed on a very valid point. The New York Times article failed to mention the 5% statistic which so leapt out at BOB from the "pile of statistics".

    To be fair, BOB mentioned the 5% statistic in his first post and had it "leaping" in his third. To be fair, Perez-Pena mentioned the statistic that included reports of rape added together with other forms of sexual assault in his first and a later paragraph. BOB, however, pounced on the different reponse rates to questions about acts which constitute sexual assault, including rape, and questions directly asking the student if they had been assaulted or raped without defining the terms. He waited until Post # 6 to single out Perez-Pena's failure to report the response rate on the direct rape question.

    We note throughout this series no attention has been given to the part of the survey and report which dealt with what students did in response to incidents of sexual assault and rape. This, in our view, is the saddest part of sexual assault and even sexual harrassment; the unwillingness of victims to report what happened. But that is a story unto itself.

    We also note that while all manner of snarky assumptions have been voiced to falsely portray concerns and attitudes of reporters and college administrators, no effort has been made to report on ongoing efforts we have found online in researching what the hyperbolic "OTB" described as an "unholy mess" to prevent rape and support students who experience it at MIT. Such efforts have been made, but BOB ignores them. If we were BOB we would say he seems to do so because they undermine his meme. If we were BOB we might even mention his Mom and Popsy. For appearances we won't.

    1. This is Bobworld, ZK, as you well know.

      If MIT is concerned about all forms of sexual assault, that automatically means in Bobworld that they aren't concerned AT ALL about rape. Not merely that they aren't concerned enough to suit Somerby. They aren't concerned AT ALL.

    2. Well, even Bob noted the problems with the 5 percent statistic, which needs a lot of explaining, before he grabbed that club to beat Perez-Pena some more:

      "Five percent of undergraduate women say they’ve been raped while students at MIT? At the Times, Perez-Pena skipped that statistic entirely. . ."

      No, Bob. As you well know, 5 percent of the undergraduate women did NOT say they were raped. 5 percent of the 47 percent who answered a self-selected survey said they were raped.

      If you took Statistics 101, too bad you overslept and missed the first day of class. It would have been explained to you how not to read more into statistics than are actually there.

      This doesn't mean that the statistic is useless. When 5 percent of 47 percent of undergraduate women say on a survey that they've been raped, then MIT has got one hell of a problem. And by all means, they should direct resources to programs to solve it.

      Which was the purpose and value of this survey all along.

    3. We cover that aspect of BOBworld in Chapter 7 of the report on our travels we are submitting to our subjects back on the home planet, Doom.

      It contains information about trigger warnings for fecal commentary, the erratic orbits of the small minded moons (whose number can be counted by rules of thumb), and an appendix of useful adjectives with which to animate tones into peculiar fact.

      We have tentatively entitled it "How the Sam Hill We Got Here."

    4. I will eagerly await Chapter 7.

      I will also eagerly await, 11 years from now, Chapters 1-6.

      Provided you are not too busy at the Oxford Procrastination Conference.

  5. When we speak of students at MIT being sexually assaulted, are we to infer the report speaks of students sexually assaulted by OTHER MIT students, faculty, adminstrator, or (ugh!) staff? Or does this take in any low-IQ Boston University fiend daring to defile the flesh of an MIT matriculator? Are we speaking of attacks and outrages on campus? off campus?, or wherever in the world future Nobelists studies may take her? "Sexual Assault" can cover a lot of territory, lumping forced penetration together with the felt boob, the patted bun, the uncouth remark, not to mention "the gaze.". Does the report speak of any male student subjected by his fellow geniuses to the kind of treatment notorious in locker rooms across the nation or on the MSNBC weekend show "Lock Up"?

    Specifics matter. How hard are we straining to get to 17 percent?

    1. Your answers are in the survey report, which you haven't bothered to read.

      But before you do, don't fall for the Somerby/right-wing trap that because the MIT survey asked about all forms of sexual assault, they are conflating "the gaze" -- whatever that means -- with rape.

      That's been a common right-wing lie ever since this issue began being raised in public consciousness.

    2. "Specifics matter. How hard are we straining to get to 17 percent?"

      Very hard. That's why comparison to actual complaints made to police and/or school authorities is essential to put these self-reported numbers in proper context.

    3. A killing in cold blooded murder and a killing in self-defense are both called "homicides."

      You think people are smart enough to know the difference?

  6. "Everyone knows that women are not paid 77 cents on the dollar “for doing the same work as men.”

    Now how do you suppose that snuck into a post about the MIT survey?

    Bob Somerby, True Champion of Women and Progressive Interests.

    1. Chivalry is not dead. A true white knight must be willing to lie for his lady!

    2. Everyone knows that Al Gore seemed to say he invented the internet. Even Gore himself acknowledged overstating his claims. Still, Somerby loves to defend the basic truth of that claim. He seems to be willing to dissemble and lie in order to try and sustain it.

      It depends on what your definition of "seems" seems to be.