Friday, July 17, 2009
Why Did Loyola Law School Fall in US News? Because the Magazine Changed the School's Name, and Its Reputation Score Plunged!
This really takes the cake for carelessness on the part of U.S. News. Loyola Law School in Los Angeles dropped from 63 to 71 in the overall U.S. News ranking this past spring, and for one primary reason: its reputation score among academics dropped from 2.6 to 2.3. But that kind of drop is extraordinary: the academic reputation scores move .1 in either direction all the time, without rhyme or reason, but only once in the last eight years did another school's peer reputation score drop that much. (The lawyer/judge reputation scores used to fluctuate more wildly, because the response rate was so low; U.S. News this year decided to average two years' worth of these reputation scores to make the results less [meaninglessly] volatile.)
So with only a 1 in 1,000 chance of this kind of movement, what else might explain the precipitous drop in academic reputation? Unfortunately, the explanation seems to be clear: U.S. News unilaterally changed the school's name on the survey: from "Loyola Law School" to "Loyola Marymount University." Loyola was the only school whose name was changed on last year's survey.
As the Loyola Dean wrote to his colleagues:
While we are part of Loyola Marymount University, and proud of it, we have been known as Loyola Law School for 80 years. That name has been used in all our branding efforts. Most law school professors and deans know us by that name. We use that name consistently in an effort to avoid confusion with two other schools that have “Loyola” in their names. By changing what we are called on the survey ballot, the magazine may have confused some respondents.
This is almost certainly the explanation--I have never in all my time in teaching ever heard the school called anything other than "Loyola Law School" or "Loyola Law School, Los Angeles". Pretty ridiculous! One assumes US News will fix the mistake next year.