[T]he Annapolis Group, a loose association of liberal arts colleges... released a statement that said a majority of the 80 presidents attending had “expressed their intent not to participate in the annual U.S. News survey.”...Link via my colleague Bill Whitford, who emailed our faculty discussion list. I quote his comment with permission:
Brian Kelly, the editor of U.S. News, ... said more than 50 percent of the presidents, provosts and admission deans who were sent the annual survey of colleges’ reputations continued to fill it out. “We think the vast majority of presidents and academics are still supporting the survey,” he said....
Many presidents who favor no longer participating in the U.S. News rankings said they expected the magazine to be able to continue to produce its annual rankings because much of the data on things like admission and graduation rates are publicly available. Colleges report most of that data to the federal Department of Education.
When will the law schools show similar courage? Perhaps it is not possible for law schools to frustrate U.S. News with a non-cooperation strategy. But there is widespread agreement that the rankings have not been good for legal education, yet we (i.e., legal educators as a group) continue not to do anything about it. Obviously this is not a problem for any one school to tackle by itself; it requires collective action.But it doesn't look as though we could end the U.S. News rankings, only undermine the parts of it that rely on our participation. My school has always done especially well on the "academic reputation" factor, so I tend to worry about this. Wouldn't the hard numbers dominate even more, thus benefiting the schools that, for example, premise admissions on LSAT scores instead of the individual's entire profile? On the other hand, I tend to think academic reputation is a very unreliable thing. Most people who fill out the U.S. News survey -- I filled it out this year -- know almost nothing or nothing about most of the schools. And their ideas about the reputations of various schools are unavoidably infected with knowing where the schools are listed in the damned U.S. News rankings.
ADDED: Bill emails (and gives permission to publish):
My concern is that there is no collective effort (by legal academia) to delegitimize the U.S. New rankings. Instead law schools all play the game, trying to manipulate their individual ranking, with harmful consequences to legal education generally.I think schools have been complaining all along, but also trying to take advantage. Even if you could get everyone to act collectively and say they wouldn't participate by sending info anymore, they would still do things to compete in the statistics that U.S. News procures from other sources. The game would go on, and we'd get burned if we didn't pay attention to it (not that it should trump all other concerns).
The list of deleterious consequences is long, but I'll start with the shift from need to "merit" (meaning high LSAT scores) in the distribution of financial aid, which has happened at virtually all law schools. Another is the publication, at considerable expense, of glossy puff literature designed to raise the reputation of the school and its faculty with other legal academics and judges -- something we academics get all the time in our faculty mailboxes.Yeah, the schools are contributing to global warming with all that printing and mailing. Let's rank the schools in the order of harm to the environment done by the "law porn" they keep sending out.
There is a question of how to act effectively. Perhaps refusing to participate in the academic reputation surveys is not the right tactic. That can be debated. But doing nothing, which is what is happening, is not the right response either. We need a discussion first on the need to do something -- and here I think there is a substantial majority of legal academics coming to the view that the rankings have had negative effects on legal education -- and second on how to act collectively in an effective way.I feel like we've been having this discussion for 20 years. The only thing new is this tactic of not participating. If it's a bad tactic, best avoided, then nothing significant is new. Life goes on, with imperfect data and endless complaining about it. I don't think much of the collective action idea, because I don't trust the law schools not to do what they can to compete for status (or criticize other schools for competing).
I note that the U.S. News rankings have given applicants some useful information to inform their school choice. That is a good effect. But the overall effect of the rankings has been to reduce of the quality of legal education generally (as measured by the standards I prefer). I would like to find some way to continue the information function with the accompanying deleterious consequences.This is the usual idea of creating alternate rankings, but everyone who'd be involved in this new system self-interested and will argue for whatever helps their school. At least U.S. News is a neutral arbiter.