Letter to the editor

A Time for Pride in GW

There are many different, and equally appropriate, responses to the revelation that GW’s admissions office has been misreporting statistics on high school class rank among our incoming students. It’s a complicated story, and there are multiple angles from which to view it. I imagine that most of us have experienced a mix of responses to the news, as we processed the initial disclosure, and the startling recent decision by U.S. News to “unrank” us.

For me, though, the dominant response I feel is pride.

I am tremendously proud of the manner in which our administration has acted in this matter. It seems to me that it has acted exactly as one would wish chief officers of a university to act under such circumstances. They uncovered the misreporting as part of a proactively initiated review – it wasn’t just that they stumbled upon a problem that they couldn’t choose to ignore. And when the University uncovered it, it immediately set upon a path toward disclosure.

It must have been tempting to sweep this under the rug. Administrators are human, and that little voice must have been there saying: “We’re the only ones who know about this. We’re surely not alone in doing it. Why not let sleeping dogs lie?”

But that course of action would have been unworthy of a great university, particularly one that promotes the value of honesty that is associated with our namesake as a defining feature of the culture we seek to create in our community – and in our dealings with the world.

Personally, I’m baffled by U.S. News’ decision to take such dramatic action against a university that came clean of its own accord. It sends absolutely the wrong message to other university administrators out there who may be thinking, “I wonder if we also have a problem like this buried in our books?” In light of U.S. News’ remarkably punitive response to GW’s open and forthcoming approach, such administrators surely are now less likely to adopt such an approach themselves.

Regardless, I believe that we, the GW community – students, alumni, staff, faculty and administrators – can and should be very proud of our University right now. I can tell you, I’m not going to walk into any rooms with my head down between now and when the next ranking comes out and we, presumably, return to our rightful place among the nation’s elite, a place we will never have really left in the meantime.

Derek Malone-France is the executive director of the University Writing Program and an associate professor of religion.

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