Earlier this week officials from the School of Business e-mailed and visited classes prompting seniors to participate in a Business Week survey that helps determine the school’s ranking in the publication. While a simple reminder to students to fill out the survey would have been appropriate in this situation, business school officials instead overstepped boundaries in their attempt to encourage participation in the poll.
The e-mail, signed by Susan M. Phillips, dean of the School of Business, and Lawrence Singleton, associate dean for undergraduate programs for the School of Business, stresses that the way students respond will impact the value of their diploma, therefore affecting their job and educational options in the future. The message states, “The higher The George Washington University School of Business is ranked, the more valuable your degree will be perceived to be.”
Besides bordering on inappropriate behavior from the school’s administrators, this instance defeats the purpose of a subjective student poll. Also, media attention aside, an untampered survey could be a valuable tool for the school in gaining feedback and potential areas of improvement. No doubt rankings play a significant part in the way both potential students and employers see a school, but the irony now is that Business Week will bring more intense scrutiny to the GW responses after this occurrence was brought to their attention. Indeed this case may not only bring embarrassment to the School of Business, but to the entire University, which has already suffered some fairly heavy public relations setbacks this semester.
Interestingly the School of Business is one of the continually top-ranked entities of GW. For the past eight years the school’s undergraduate program has been ranked one of the top 50 Business Schools by U.S. News and World Report. While GW’s ranking as a whole has continued in a downward trend over the past few years, the business school instead has been on the upswing. The school already has prestige and a positive reputation, without the prompting of officials to students to reply to a specific survey.
The tone of the GW administration as a whole has been one of apathy toward rankings in the past, instead focusing first on academics in hopes that improved rankings will follow. It is understandable that the School of Business wants to take on their own view of individual school rankings, but their methods must be more tactful than implying negative consequences on their students’ futures.
For a school that prides itself in teaching ethics to the next generation of business leaders, interfering with such a project as this seems out of line. The school’s Web site explains that they strive to highlight the complexities of a business education, citing the need to be “ethical in business.” In the case of a school devoted to teaching students the ethics of business, this situation may provide a first-hand learning experience for students.
Despite the GW administration’s indifference to ranking publications in the past, the reality remains that rankings have bearing on the decisions of students, alumni and prospective employers. From this situation it seems clear that the GW administration must communicate with individual school deans an appropriate policy of how to approach and deal with ranking situations in the future.