“The numbers are always underwritten by the real struggles against classism and the impactful activism of low-income students.”
[Updated 1/24/17, 9:45AM] The infographic has the minimum wage at Wesleyan listed as $9.60. This was the wage for 2016, but the state of Connecticut raised the wage to $10.10 effective Jan. 2017. Many thanks to Noah Kahan ’19 for catching this.
For countless cycles of matriculation, prospective Wes students have been concerned about our reputation on College Confidential. TBT amirite? This worry soon goes away (hopefully), for a variety of reasons. Despite our Forbes ranking of #9 in the country last year, I’d say most of us still don’t put much stock in college rankings.
The Forbes ranking system focuses on present value and return on investment. Basically, they tend to prioritize student satisfaction rates and alumni earnings, among other things. This system countered US News’ prioritizing of prestige measures like endowment size and “quality” of applicant pool (think SAT scores). In a similar vein to Forbes, the New York Times just released a host of rankings based on, you know, what you can actually expect to gain (financially) from college. Their rankings were released last Wednesday and focus on measures of upward mobility.
The rankings come from a study by The Equality of Opportunity Project in which the authors construct what they call “mobility report cards” for every single college in America. These report cards tracked student and parental income data from 1999-2013. The Times published some great interactive data visualizations from the study, searchable by college. As you can tell from the headline, we were curious about how Wesleyan stacked up. Let’s break it down:
I was enjoying a beautiful summer day, when my phone started BLOWING UP with WesKids talking about college rankings. I was expecting the usual “college rankings are ways of implementing oppressive and othering hierarchies that fuel this neoliberal corporate educational machine-industrial-complex-thing.” But I was wrong.
Yo, Wesleying’s Senior College Ranking Fuckery Correspondent is here and reporting for duty. Last week The Economist told us we’re #623, and now Business Insider is proclaiming that Wesleyan is #40 on their list of top 50 smartest colleges.
What absurd criteria did BI use for calculating their rankings? They went with a very fun and very biased, classist, racist, awful thing called standardized test scores (I think even frosh in intro soc can explain how this is problematic).
Here’s my favorite quote from BI about why they decided that using SAT/ACT scores was a fab idea:
Looks like the admissions office is going to have to do more than just revamp their Instagram. The Economist just published its first-ever college rankings last week, and those bitches put us at #623. No, that’s not a typo: SIX HUNDRED. TWENTY. THREE.
The Economist says that the formula behind their rankings is “simple:”
The economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its graduates earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere.
Of course, while the former is easy to find nowadays, the latter is where things turn into something out of NUMB3RS. The Economist says it uses some fancy “multiple regression analysis” and runs it through a shit ton of software and *poof* there’s your ranking. Whatevs, Economist.
But if you think our ranking is bad, I’m here to make it worse: Here’s a list of schools with “Wesleyan” in their names that beat us:
For those of you who haven’t been following the buttload of obnoxious college rankings that come out every August/September, you’re in luck: Wesleyan is faring pretty damn well. A couple of the highlights and interesting tidbits:
1. Forbes ranked Wes number 15 on its 2014 list of best colleges in America. Impressive colleges we’re ranked higher than include Dartmouth, Northwestern, Columbia, Duke, and University of Chicago. Cue the awkward moment this summer when I used “So we beat you in the Forbes rankings” as a conversation starter with a current Dartmouth student. Whoops.
Do you ever get the feeling Wesleyan is having a little bit of an identity crisis?
There’s a good chance that my ‘ideal’ Wesleyan doesn’t look exactly the same as yours; our concerns and tastes are different, as are our experiences here. But it is likely that the things you love most about Wesleyan are unique to it, are not quantifiable, and are not things that are in step with success as defined by any rankings algorithm. I’m serious about Wesleyan dropping out of college rankings like US News. Reed College president Colin Diver explains in a 2005 Atlantic article that “one-size-fits-all ranking schemes undermine the institutional diversity that characterizes American higher education…(as) The urge to improve one’s ranking creates an irresistible pressure toward homogeneity, and schools that… strive to be different are almost inevitably penalized.” In my opinion, Wesleyan students have been struggling against that subtle pressure in different ways for years now.
For further redundancy, incredible sarcasm and unrelenting disgust has been clogging up the tubes around campus.
That’s right folks, it’s that time of year again: US News and World Report has released its infamous college rankings list and put Wesleyan at #17 on the National Liberal Arts College list, tied with Grinnell College of Iowa and the United States Military Academy (West Point) of West Point, New York. In a demonstration of recursive redundancy, this ranking is exactly where we ranked last year. In a demonstration of arbitrary analysis–this is US News we’re talking about here–the publication stated the following blurb to describe Wesleyan (reproduced in full from the rankings listing):
Wesleyan University is located in Middletown, Conn., overlooking the Connecticut River. The private institution’s sports teams compete in the Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference, as well as in the unofficial Little Three athletic conference with Amherst College and Williams College.
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.
A few weeks ago, a former Wesleyan student filed suit against the University, as well as the national Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, its Mu Epsilon chapter here at Wesleyan, and the Baird Society that owns the building and grounds occupied by Mu Epsilon. In a nutshell, the suit alleges that the University and the other parties did not take sufficient action to prevent the rape of the former student at a Halloween Party at Beta in October of 2010. The coverage of this lawsuit, by Wesleying and by local and national news sources, involves a Brobdingnagian array of diverse but connected issues. I’m going to try to touch on as many as I can. I will inevitably sound preachy at particular points, and for that I apologize in advance.
I really hope that these statements are unnecessary, but here goes: sexual assault, like pretty much any kind of assault, is problematic and unacceptable. The environment in which sexual assault remains possible is likewise problematic and unacceptable.
This post attempts to make those things a little bit clearer, comments on the subject in light of recent events, and includes many of my own opinions tying this particular issue to broader and equally terrifying patterns of college/youth/generational/human attitude that underlie the culture of permissible rape. This post is long. You should read it anyway.
Let’s start with some facts:
- Millions of rapes occur every year, both forcible (as noted in the image above) and non-forcible. The vast majority are perpetrated by men against women, though still significant numbers of rapes are perpetrated by women against men and by men against men or women against women.
- About one in four women will be subject to a sexual assault in their lifetimes. About one in six men will be subject to the same. [United States Department of Justice]
- About one in five women at a college or university will be subject to a sexual assault during their years at school.
- A 1991 study found that 76% of boys and 56% of girls in high school believe that forced sex is acceptable under certain conditions. These “certain conditions” typically included ‘if those involved had been dating for at least six months’ and/or ‘if he spent a lot of money on her.’ [Parrot & Bechhofer, 1991]
- Sexual assault survivors are typically acquainted with the perpetrator beforehand, oftentimes being friends or even in a long-term relationship.
- Both individuals have typically consumed alcohol or other substances (about three in four perpetrators and one in two survivors). [Abbey et al., 1998]
- In most studies, large percentages of survivors interviewed that described an incident meeting the study’s definition of rape would not themselves term the incident as rape.
Why so serious, USNWR?
Not that anyone cares, because these things don’t mean anything, and they’re all just so arbitrary, and because rankings do not even matter unless Wesleyan scores high, in which case it’s super-exciting and you can disregard all that other stuff, but…
Unfortunately, it’s just not our year. The U.S. News and World Report—which by the way, has ranked as the #1 most useless publication three years in a row in this list I keep in the top drawer of my desk—had the gall to rank the prestigious Wellesleyan College at #17, down five slots from last year (or really up, does anyone else ever think about that, because 17 is actually a greater number than 12, mathematically speaking?).
Here’s the list, but instead of focusing on why or how we dropped this year (cough overenrollment cough endowment-per-student figure), I thought instead I’d focus instead on what it means to be number 17. I didn’t get very far, so instead I thought about what it might mean to be a liberal arts college (not in like a 21st century-cost-efficient-MRoth sort of way).