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April 01, 2004

Johnny Walker Blue

Along with Starbucks, the world is ruled in part by a certain national glossy magazine which each year generates the Big Fat List (big fat is the theme of the week kids) ranking institutions of higher education. Every institution says it's severely flawed and deceptively simplistic, and an insult to the field. Every institution busts its balls every year to make sure they maintain or improve their ranking, dammit. The degree of this hypocrisy increases the more elite the school. It's hilarious.

One of Girl-E's lofty responsibilities at work is to collect and develop her institution's submission for the survey. Sounds kinda neat (if you're into that), but until you've done it you don't know from stress. Every day being told what a pointless and ridiculous exercise it is, and we can't believe we stoop to it. Every day being told we better fucking not drop because the world and everything we've worked to do from the history of our founding will be meaningless with a lower rank. The best part is, the mag doesn't reveal which of the bazillion criteria it's going to use this year, so the pressure not to miss a single decimal point in the submitted data is severe. Her anxiety that a drop on the list would be blamed entirely on her incompetence or treachery or whatever is quite elevated. The whole thing is the definition of absurdity.

Anyway, after white-knuckled months of waiting, the rankings are done. They're embargoed until tomorrow, so we can't say much, except that she's not throwing herself out the window.

Posted by The Twins at April 1, 2004 04:22 PM

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seriously -- someone needs to regulate the stupid power of that infernal magazine. what the hell do they know about excellence? maybe colleges should do a ranking of news magazines.

it all led to a hilarious call for my harvard-med buddy. evidently the "selectivity" rating is based on what percentage of admitted students matriculate. so one day, he got a call from someone at stanford med trying to figure out if he was going to harvard. he hedged and hedged and finally said, yeah, i'll probably go to harvard. he got his rejection from stanford a week later.

Posted by: bryan at April 1, 2004 04:40 PM

Yeah, the year before I started working in Unnamed Department at Unnamed School, someone in that position dropped the ball, didn't submit a bunch of stuff, and we plummeted in the rankings (not that we were all that high to start out with). When the rankings came out (I was working there by that point), it really wasn't pretty.

Posted by: Jess at April 1, 2004 11:57 PM

It would seem that a comparison to junior high popularity contests would not be completely amiss.

Posted by: nikita at April 2, 2004 11:50 AM

Yes, but with much greater financial implications.

Posted by: EV at April 2, 2004 11:52 AM

I heard a rumor that this national glossy mag screwed up one year and included princeton on the survey to determine the academic reputation of their law school among law professors.

Appearently, Princeton law school (sic) ended up in the top 20 for academic reputation....

Posted by: Robbie at April 2, 2004 05:14 PM

I love Johnny Walker Blue.... although I usually drink black.

Back on topic - do people actually base their admission decisions on the rankings in US News and World Report? That's ridiculous!

Posted by: Mala at April 3, 2004 12:49 PM