Wesleying recently reported on the absolutely devastating blow dealt to the image, pride, and general magic of Wesleyan University when U.S. News and World Report dropped Wes from 12th to 17th on their “Best Liberal Arts colleges” rankings.
But that hardly compares to the trauma inflicted on poor George Washington University when the same publication destroyed all of the prestige, importance, history, and soul of GW in a single, violent instant: when it stripped GW of its ranking at 51st on US News‘ Best Universities list. According to NBC Washington:
George Washington University on Wednesday lost its U.S. News and World Report Ranking as one of the top national universities because the school revealed it had erroneously reported data on incoming students for more than a decade.
For the 2011 entering class, the university revealed last week that it had inadvertently overstated the number of students listed in the top 10 percent of their high school class by 20 percentage points.
Academic credentials of incoming students are one of the variables used by U.S. News and other publications to rank schools.
U.S. News chief ranker Bob Morse wrote online that … U.S. News handles misreporting of data on a “case-by-case basis” and that it had not changed any other school’s ranking in the current cycle.
The current number of GW undergrads is 10,406. If we assume that the 2011 entering class was exactly 25% of this, it would mean GW incorrectly reported the rankings of over 500 incoming students. This has been happening “erroneously” for over a decade.
Claremont McKenna College, currently ranked #10 by US News, and Emory University in Atlanta also admitted to disclosing incorrect data of freshman SAT scores and high school rankings, but neither suffered a terrible, fate-altering rank change as a result of their fudged numbers.
Sarcasm aside, GW has not been spontaneously swallowed by the Earth, suffered a resurgence of the bubonic plague, or undergone 40 days and nights of continuous flooding (though the #51 spot on US News rankings is missing). And while this scandal certainly hurts its image, the actual fudging of the numbers is probably going to do a bit more damage to the University’s reputation than any change in rankings that results from finding the correct data (if the new data can be trusted).
So what does this mean for Wesleyan? For one thing, if we’re really concerned about raising our ranking we should find more practical means of raising it than lying about incoming students. I’d suggest getting more Dragon Ball Z Saiyan sleep-capsules and folk-legend sing-a-longs.
We might also take the time to pause and ask ourselves just how much we want these rankings to affect the University’s decision making process, and/or whether or we should allow these rankings to define us as a university at all.