Logan Dobson: Stop whining about rankings

It’s hard to get the GW community united.

But if there is one thing that students and administrators alike can agree on, it is this: the people who rank colleges are out to get us.

Maybe it is the fact that our tuition is so high and we feel like we have to defend our investments. Maybe it’s because our campus is so political that the us-versus-them attitudes of public discourse pervade all aspects of our education.

Or maybe it’s because GW has such tremendous school spirit that we instinctively defend our college. Ok, no, it’s definitely not that last one.

When I arrived at GW in 2007, our U.S. News & World Report ranking was 50-something. Right now? A slightly-higher-50-something. This could mean a lot of things. To a normal person, it would mean that GW is a pretty good school, but it’s not getting that much better compared to its rivals. To a GW person, as reflected in the editorial pages of the very newspaper you’re reading, it means instead that the ranking systems are biased. Every year, almost without fail, The Hatchet will publish an editorial explaining how the rankers, be it Princeton Review or U.S. News, use the wrong criteria to judge schools and we should just ignore the rankings.

This is not limited to academic rankings, nor is it limited to the student population. Just this summer, GW signed a letter along with other universities criticizing the somewhat opaque methodologies of organizations that grade the environmentalism of collegiate institutions. This, of course, came on the heels of GW ranking somewhat poorly on various environmental scorecards. Whether or not you believe that to be a coincidence probably has something to do with who you think shot John F. Kennedy.

Now, perhaps all these ranking systems are giving GW a bum rap. Perhaps U.S. News’ editor in chief got rejected when he applied. Perhaps the environmentalists are still bitter about George and that cherry tree. But what is far more likely is that these organizations are nothing more than objective observers, trying to make fair rankings based on their time-tested methodology. After all, which seems more plausible – that the Sierra Club is out to get us, or that environmental ranking organizations want to keep their criteria a secret so that schools can’t purposefully improve just those areas which are graded in order to achieve a better score? The system may not be perfect, but it is imperfectly applied to all schools.

All of that is beyond the point though. It is beneath the dignity of a school with such an illustrious history and growing reputation to be engaging in a juvenile “no fair” argument. This year, after all, GW actually improved in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

From this I hope GW can learn an important lesson: it’s always better to put in the work to improve a grade rather than complaining to the professor. You’re more likely to succeed and less likely to look like a whiner.

– The writer is a senior majoring in political science.

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