Faculty question the research behind marketing agency

Hayden Olberding, Digital Editor

Faculty questioned the research behind the marketing agency that researched the university’s “human personality” in Friday’s Faculty Senate Meeting.

The university paid $150,000 for Carnegie Dartlet, a higher education marketing agency, for “personality and campaign concepts,” “brand research,” “brand strategy” and the research it presented March 10.

Courtney Tritch, a representative for the company, gave the same presentation from March 10 to the Faculty Senate on Friday.

After Tritch finished presenting the research, the floor was open to discussion. 

Zachary Pilot, assistant professor of psychology, asked why the research combines all participants when it showed the percent of participants that viewed the university as a certain archetype.

The study included 550 participants internally. 110 of the participants were faculty, 112 administrators, 112 support, 18 alumni and 192 students. 

Students and faculty may perceive the university differently, Pilot said.

“If you combine everything together, then you’re not able to see where there is overlap, and where there are differences,” Pilot said. “You just get a big mishmash of sort of undefined data.”

The study had a wide array of age groups, but the study “smashes” the data together, Pilot said.

“As a person that teaches, primarily, 18 to 24 year olds, I’m pretty interested in what they are thinking,” Pilot said. “We don’t serve as many 45 year olds as we do 18 to 24 year olds.”

Pilot asked if it is relevant to understand if students perceive the university differently than faculty and staff do.

“No,” Tritch said. “Because you’re not going to change who you are fundamentally, we need to understand that as a whole bucket, not individual buckets.”

She said the goal is for everyone’s voice to be involved and to understand who the university is collectively.

Tritch directed questions that were more specific to the research to Jared Brickman, a researcher for Carnegie Dartlet who was not at the meeting. 

Associate Professor of Physics Kenneth Purcell, asked a question about the list of schools that Carnegie Dartlet identified as the university’s competitors.

“It seems like a lot of students from the surrounding Indiana counties are going to Murray State University,” Purcell said. “They’re not on our list.”

Amie McKibban, associate professor of psychology, asked about the validity of the research and of the tool Carnegie Dartlet uses for research. She said faculty doesn’t get access to that data.

“If we are going to base two, three, four, five, 10 years of marketing on something like this, I would expect that we would want something very psychometrically sound,” McKibban said.

She said it would be a good idea for a researcher of Carnegie Dartlet to talk to the Faculty Senate. 

“I have a very difficult time as a behavioral scientist in understanding how you got buy-in from other scientists,” McKibban said. “Or is this just a thing that all you aim for is buy-in from administrators?”

Tritch said the reason she spoke to the Faculty Senate was for buy-in from faculty.

“Obviously, we would love your buy-in,” Tritch said. “That’s why we asked you all to be a part of the process.”

Tritch said universities traditionally don’t go through “this rigorous of a process.” 

She said the process is not choosing a personality that the administration wants but the 700 participants decided the archetypes through the survey.

“We’ve had multiple people weigh in, that this sounds like our strategic plan, this sounds like who we want to be,” Tritch said.

Pilot compared the way Carnegie Dartlet gathered data to the Barnum effect. He said it’s like a horoscope or a quiz that asks ‘what Pop-Tart are you?’

“It’s easy to see yourself in these things, and that’s the whole point,” Pilot said. “The whole point is to see yourself because the wording is super vague.”

Assistant Professor of German Bartell Berg, said some faculty are frustrated because they don’t know where the funding is coming from.

“We understand that we are not going to be receiving pay raises, and many things are being cut, including sabbaticals,” Berg said. “There’s understandable worry about how funds are being spent.”

Kindra Strupp, vice president for marketing and communications, said $100,000 of the $150,000 the university spent on Carnegie Dartlet’s service came from grant money, and $50,000 came from the normal marketing budget.

The Faculty Senate Chair Rex Strange said he will ask for one of Carnegie Dartlet’s researchers, Jared Brickman, to attend the next Faculty Senate meeting.