Tuesday, October 12, 2010

U.S. News Insanity: Ranking as Faculty Hiring Litmus Test

The provost at Christopher Newport University - a Virginia state institution - has announced that in considering faculty candidates, those with U.S. News certified credentials will receive preference.  In particular, the university is particularly interested in candidates who received their bachelor's degree from a school ranked among the  U.S. News top 99 national liberal arts colleges or top 35 national universities.   They're also especially keen on folks with a terminal degree from one of the U.S. News top 69 national universities.

Many - and perhaps most - excellent faculty candidates will fit this bill.  But this heuristic would surely exclude some good candidates.  Take, for example, a person with a BA from the University of Texas or Wisconsin (both ranked #45), the University of Illinois (#47) or Boston University ((#56).   You were valedictorian at the University of Minnesota?  Keep moving, buddy.  Find yourself another credential.

And what about this terminal degree requirement?  Apparently the provost at CNU isn't into fine grain analysis such as "which departments are good" and "which advisors are excellent."  Is it really true that a terminal degree from  the University of Iowa (#72), University of Indiana (#75), Drexel University (#86), or University of Colorado (#86) is prima facie evidence that a candidate is chopped liver?

Sure, academic hiring is highly reliant on proxies and heuristics.  But it's a sad day when we outsource the construction of these proxies to U.S. News. 


Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

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Wow - I got my BA from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I wonder where it's ranked. I think I got a great education, and I am most grateful. My terminal degree is from the University of Washington - no idea where it's ranked.

Posted by: Alec Stone Sweet | Oct 25, 2010 6:31:54 PM

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