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No, Not Really
June 21, 2007 - 12:29am


In order to halt growing criticism (covered by Inside Higher Ed and the New York Times) of their ranking of the reputations of American colleges and universities, U.S.News & World Report will no longer poll those not associated with a school for their opinion of that school. Instead, U.S. News will send the following questions directly to the president of each institution for self-ranking:

What is the maximum time your chancellor can hold his or her breath?

Does your college have a helipad? Is it lit up at night so it looks really cool? What about a calliope? Would the trustees be down with acquiring a calliope?

What is the current national ranking of your Ping Pong program?

What is the height of the tallest building on your campus? Can you see a body of water from it? If you jumped off, could you reach the water? If so, would you survive the fall? Could we?

How many votes of no confidence by your own faculty have you survived?

Truth now: Your provost really pisses you off sometimes, right?

Are your grad students hot enough that you’re a little afraid to be around them?

What are you wearing right now? Can I see? No, lift it higher.

You don’t have any of that weird regional food there, do you? Like scrapple, whatever that is, or head cheese, which we’re pretty sure isn’t dairy at all? Do you laugh when we can’t decide between grits with butter and salt, or grits with milk and sugar? Because let us tell you something: Grits are made from the stuff that gets caught in your teeth when you eat corn on the cob.

How many “Shakey’s” restaurants are within a 10-minute drive of your campus?

Do you have bunkers under your campus to be used in the case of nuclear attack? Can they house everyone, or do you have a plan for who will be left behind? The plan excludes adjuncts, doesn’t it?

Could your collective faculty beat the Chicago Bulls in a bar fight?

Do you employ one of our ex-lovers at your school? What did he or she say about us?

Do you screen Bachelor Party regularly at your student union? Why?

Has any of your faculty been to the moon? No? I thought you said they were really something.

Do you have enough Nobel Prize winners to crew a small schooner? A dhow? A kayak?

How fast are your elevators? Like, faster than a car?

How many Hollywood movies could your endowment fund? (Assume they’ll be detective-westerns starring Tom Selleck.)

What’s the highest price your medical school ever paid for black-market cadavers?

Do you hold the image of your institution’s grounds in your mind as a possible heaven as you contemplate the fading light and the fact that we all live as monads, ultimately, bereft of human kindness or even contact, and that you’ll pass the rest of your days looking for sustenance and comfort in the sort of universe where you might as well plan to die alone on a bed with twisted sheets because everyone else will be in the library working on their monographs they consider so important they’ve been using them as an excuse for withholding emotional commitment for the last 15 years?

Which schools turned you down for employment, forcing you to settle for where you are now? Would you like to see their ranking fall a point or two?

What if we had come to feel that objective data might not account for what true education is? Do you know anybody who might be inclined to hire a guy, if, say, he’d been fired for helping nudge somebody’s school ranking upward just a skoosh? (CV available on request.)

Is yours the kind of school where somebody can do very little and still sound good announcing at a cocktail party that he works there? No?

Is your U.S. News subscription paid up? You'd better hope so.


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