STANFORD TAKES ON
U.S. NEWS RANKINGS
Can a college education really be reduced to
Stanford challenges the newsweekly for hitting a little below the belt
By Elaine Ray
Stanfords palm-studded campus to the cherry-blossomed
thoroughfares of Washington, D.C., a clash of values is testing the
wills of scholars and publishers. On one side
is President Gerhard
Casper and a national corps of student activists. On the other is the
editorial staff of U.S. News and World Report, which publishes
its Americas Best Colleges issue from the capital every fall.
U.S. News editors insist that their college guide provides a
service to parents and prospective students who want to invest their
higher education dollars wisely. The fact that the guide is the weekly
newsmagazines hottest-selling issue demonstrates readers confidence in
their product, editors assert.
But critics argue that U.S. News college rankings should be
taken about as seriously as a beauty contest or Sports
Illustrateds swimsuit issue. They say U.S. News does
consumers a disservice by assigning numerical value to things that
cannot be quantified.
Its a fundamentally ridiculous concept to say that you can take a
series of numbers, run them through an algorithm and that algorithm will
tell you what makes the best college and what makes the second-best
college. Thats an absurd notion, says Nick Thompson, vice president of
the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) and the national
coordinator of Forget U.S. News Coalition (FUNC) a national
alliance of students. The ASSU was one of several student government
organizations across the country that passed resolutions condemning
U.S. News formulas and asking their college administrations to
withhold data requested by the magazine. FUNC members met with U.S.
News editors in December.