The Weinberg Effect on Campus Events

Of, By, and For: Oliver Gladfelter

This past December, I hosted a late night snowball fight open to the entire campus. Following typical Denison procedure, I mainly used Facebook to advertise my event:


Interest grew quickly, yet there was one question everyone kept asking: “Will Weinberg be there??” Clearly, the success of the event hinged on whether or not the university’s president would make an appearance. So naturally, I shot an email off to the Office of the President:


After this game changer, excitement grew to a whole new level. Students who were once on the fence about going were now overwhelmingly sold. So what’s the lesson here? Student organizations are constantly throwing events, week after week. And often times, attendance is lackluster, week after week. What does Weinberg have to do with attendance?

In the Fall of 2015, Dr. Djupe’s senior seminar class ran a survey with an experiment in it. All participants were informed of an event happening on campus in the coming weeks and were asked how likely they were to attend. Yet half of participants were told President Weinberg would be at the event, while the other half were told nothing of the sort.

Figure 1 – Overall, Students Are Somewhat Likely to Attend Campus Events


Students could rate their chances of going anywhere from a 1 (very unlikely) to a 6 (very likely).  Overall, the average response was a 4.04 – close to somewhat likely.

Whether or not students thought President Weinberg would be at the event had a significant effect on how likely they were to attend; those who were told he would be there were much more likely to attend (4.14) than those who were told nothing of the university president (3.93).

At first glance, it may appear that gender also affects someone’s willingness to attend a campus event – the average is 4.21 for males and 3.98 a females. However, this is actually because the Weinberg Effect doesn’t affect everyone equally. For students who were told nothing about Weinberg’s presence at the event, there is no distinguishable gender difference in willingness to attend (3.99 vs 3.95). However, this is not the case when students are told the president will be present. In this case, males become dramatically more interested in attending, averaging a willingness of 4.47. Females, on the other hand, are virtually unaffected by the Weinberg Effect.

Figure 2 – The Weinberg Effect Influences Male Students


While there are several possible explanations for this gender difference, one is that male students are particularly moved by Weinberg because he himself is a male. Perhaps Dr. Kennedy would have a similar effect, yet more strongly influencing female students than males.[[1]] Does this mean students are more influenced by administrators and professors with whom they share a common identity, or is there another explanation for the Weinberg Effect?

Nevertheless, while there are still plenty of questions left unanswered, we do have one definitive way we can improve attendance at campus events – just simply make sure Dr. Weinberg makes an appearance at each and every event! That’ll at least get a few more males showing up to whatever you’re planning. Dr. Weinberg, your schedule might be getting much busier from here on out!

Oliver Gladfelter is a huge advocate of procrastination and spends most of his time finding new ways to waste time. He also studies political science on the side.


1. This effect inspired Dr. Djupe, Gabe Murray, and others to include questions to test this on a few national surveys. The finding is shocking and we (students and faculty) continue to investigate it to make sure it holds up before we go public with it.

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