Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dartmouth falls in U.S. News rankings

Another story in a busy news day, IvyGate has published an embargoed press release from U.S. News & World Report about its 2008 university. The rankings, which were supposed to be released tomorrow, has Dartmouth falling from the 9th spot to the 11th. Last year, Dartmouth was in a tie with Chicago and Columbia, who remain in a tie for the 9th spot in the new rankings. Dartmouth is the only Ivy League school to fall in the rankings, with Penn moving up two positions to the 5th spot, and Brown moving up from 15 to 14, and the other universities remaining the same.

Comments on IvyGate have blamed the recent trustee election and the constitution debate for the fall in the rankings. I do not understand the details of how the ranking are determined, so I have no idea if it had any influence, but in a larger sense, I strongly disagree that the fight over trustees has hurt Dartmouth. Instead, questions about the direction of the school should demonstrate that it is a strong college. First, placing an institution under critical scrutiny ensures that decisions made are well thought through and that weaknesses are fully probed. Second, the fury of the debates demonstrates the passion that alumni have for the college. Historically, Dartmouth has been no stranger to controversy, but that has always strengthened the college - precisely why Boaz Allen Hamilton named us one of the most enduring institutions.

12 comments:

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

Dartmouth should join the expanding group of colleges and universities that do not participate in the rankings. Some, like Williams, are no slouches.

Then prospective students and faculty would come to this unique institution by evaluating her on her special unique merits, and not merely for the prestige of a high number. For example, people more comfortable in an urban environment should not say "yes" to attending Dartmouth simply because it was the school with the highest ranking that accepted them. And yes, this happens all too often.

Like many alums, I certainly have enjoyed the bragging rights of a high ranking, but at what price?

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

Followup from the D:

"Regarding the peer assessment category, Wright expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that one-quarter of a school’s rating is based on visibility, prestige, money and selectivity.
.....
Although he disagreed with the procedure U.S. News utilizes in ranking colleges, Wright acknowledged the importance that such rankings have for many high school students and their parents."

Are these the types of students we feel the need to "compete" for? Surely among the thousands Dartmouth turns away every year, there are many with incredible potential to be future leaders, who are less concerned with the prestige.

Many keep saying "let Dartmouth be [uniquely] Dartmouth". Let's have the courage to do so. Ditch the rankings.

John Bruce said...

It's worth pointing out that the Board Loyalist position, especially since the Wright letter earlier this year, has been that the debate aka "divisiveness" over alumni trustees hurts Dartmouth in recruiting students and faculty.

If this is of serious concern, then it seems to me the thing to do would be not to try to change the 1891 Agreement. Do Wright, Haldeman, et al, seriously think that trashing the 1891 Agreement will make the alums shut up?

zach said...

I'm sick of the rankings undermining American competitiveness by incentivizing institutional behavior that privileges the privileged, undermines equality and fairness, and diverts schools'; priorities from educating students to fudging figures. Am I just ranting here? Maybe. But I try to back it up with some more meat in my op-ed on the Huffington Post today.

John Bruce said...

It seems to me that this is an area where sensible views don't correspond to old-style left vs right alignments. I have a piece coming out in a forthcoming Dartmouth Review where I discuss the way in which the Board of Trustees is behaving in a predictably upper-class way regarding the petition trustees, who are either new money (Rodgers) or of lower to lower-middle class families (the other three).

Zach's op-ed outlines the way in which prestige schools operate in a way that also perpetuates the upper class and conventional social striving attitudes.

Anonymous said...

Of course "questions about the direction of the school should demonstrate that it is a strong college." But they don't. To the academics around the country who are surveyed by US News after hearing snippets about the various controversies at Dartmouth and perhaps after reading some of the hyperbole in the national press that Dartmouth can't get its act together and that its alumni are ignorant whiners.

Anonymous said...

Dartmouth definitely should not give up and join the group of colleges and universities that do not participate in the rankings. If you think Dartmouth is not engaged in competition and does not need to "compete" for students, then you are consigning Dartmouth to oblivion. Dartmouth used to compete frequently with and be spoken of in the same breath with Union College. But does that school even exist today? If it does, it is not competing with the Ivy League, whether for students, faculty, grants, prestige, sports accolades, or in almost any other arena. Some people say Dartmouth should admit people it now turns away, and not admit those who are interested in prestige. That is a recipe for disaster. It would be madness for any school that does well in the rankings, such as Dartmouth, to discard that competitive advantage for some dubious principle. And Dartmouth will be ranked whether or not it participates, just on the basis of less complete information.

Anonymous said...

John Bruce tries to shift the blame for "divisiveness" from radical alumni to the trustees, writing that if divisiveness "is of serious concern, then it seems to me the thing to do would be not to try to change the 1891 Agreement."

John, how have the Trustees "trashed" the 1891 agreement, or even tried to "change" it? What, in your mind, are they up to? Is there a conspiracy, is that why nobody but you is aware of these "changes"?

Anonymous said...

John, we can't wait to read your Marxist analysis of the Trustees in the Review! It should supply lots of larfs. We hope it explains why your class envy, I mean, careful investigation of other people's social class could provide a single useful insight or explain one iota of the Trustees' behavior. You've already got us well on our way with your original observation that prestige schools perpetuate the upper class! It's amazing that no one has ever connected the Ivy League and social striving attitudes – truly amazing. Tell us more!

Anonymous said...

"Some people say Dartmouth should admit people it now turns away, and not admit those who are interested in prestige."

Sounds better than admiting people who come for the prestige, with little more understanding. Focusing on the prestige as an end in itself is the true recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

"Sounds better than admitting people who come for the prestige, with little more understanding. Focusing on the prestige as an end in itself is the true recipe for disaster."

As long as they are better students, why do you care about their motivations? No good student goes to Dartmouth just for the prestige,and none of the weak students you propose to admit in their place is ignorant of the prestige. It would be a huge mistake to screen out the most qualified applicants on the basis that some part of their motivation is prestige. Dartmouth would be shooting itself in the nose to spite its face.

Tom Paine said...

I found Anonymous's observation on Union College most intriguing. When I started to teach there in 1963, its combined SAT scores were well above 1200; they are now about 1000. SAT's are not, of course, the sole or most relieable measure of student ability, but they are indicative. Union sank through a succession of terrible presidents, doltish deans, an arrogant board, and a faculty that embraced playing the publications game--and doing it badly. The last 15 years I was there, the humanities and social sciences were becoming increasingly politicized. Grades kept rising; the quality of student work kept falling. Faculty were pitching towards high student evaluations.