The following appeared in a memo written by a dean at Buckingham College:
"To serve the housing needs of our students, Buckingham College should build a new dormitory. Buckingham's enrollment is growing and, based on current trends, should double over the next fifty years, thus making existing dormitories inadequate. Moreover, the average rent for an apartment in our town has increased in recent years. Consequently, students will find it increasingly difficult to afford off-campus housing. Finally, an attractive new dormitory would make prospective students more likely to enroll at Buckingham."
Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.
In this memo a dean at Buckingham College recommends that in order to meet expected enrollment increases the college should build an additional dormitory. To support this recommendation the dean points out that rental rates for off-campus apartments have been increasing, thus making it more difficult for students to afford this housing option. The dean also points out that a new dormitory would attract prospective students to the college. This argument is problematic in several respects.
A threshold problem with the argument involves the statistical reliability of the reports about off-campus rental rates. The dean indicates only that "student leaders" reported these statistics; the dean provides no information about how these students collected their data. It is entirely possible that the report was based on an insufficiently small sample, or a sample that was unrepresentative of the town's overall student rental market.
Secondly, the dean assumes that this current trend in rental rates will continue in the future; yet the dean offers no evidence to substantiate this assumption. These rates are a function of supply and demand, and it is entirely possible that construction of apartment houses will increase in the future, thereby reducing rental rates along with the need for an additional dormitory. Without considering this possible scenario, the dean cannot justifiably conclude that an additional dormitory is needed to meet future demand.
Thirdly, the dean assumes that as enrollment increases the demand for student housing will also increase. While this might be the case, the dean ignores the possibility that the increased enrollment will be the result of an increase in the number of students commuting to Buckingham from their parents' homes. This scenario, if true, would render the dean's argument for building a new dormitory untenable.
Yet another problem with the argument involves the dean's final claim that an attractive new dormitory would attract prospective students to Buckingham. Even assuming students in fact choose colleges on this basis, by relying on this evidence the dean essentially provides an argument against building the new dormitory. If an attractive new dormitory would increase demand for dormitory space, this fact would only serve to undermine the dean's conflicting claim that the new dormitory would help meet increasing demand for dormitory space.
In conclusion, the dean's recommendation is not well supported. To strengthen it the dean must provide clear evidence that average rental rates for off-campus student apartments have in fact been increasing, that this trend will continue in the future, and that this trend will in fact result in an increased demand for dormitory housing.
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