November 24, 2022

Cornell's statement on USNews.com rankings

I think they're not joining the boycott, but it's actually a bit ambiguous.  Dean Ohlin makes many points I've made here, but then note the first sentence of his last paragraph (bold added):

My own view is that the rankings distort academic decision-making, fail to adequately capture institutional quality, and create perverse incentives that are not in the best interests of students or the legal profession.

However, withdrawal from the rankings process will not have the desired impact that many assume that it will have. For one, U.S. News has said that it will continue to rank all law schools regardless of their level of participation. In addition, all law schools are already required to report most of the relevant data used in the rankings to the American Bar Association, and this information is publicly available by ABA rule. This includes LSAT, GPA, acceptance rate, yield, number of courses, faculty head count, average financial aid package, bar passage rates, career outcomes, and more. (This transparency regime was part of a laudable ABA effort to provide applicants with the information necessary to make informed decisions about pursuing a legal education.) Even financial reports about expenditures are publicly available in summary budgets that some universities publish online. The reality is that U.S. News & World Report is a journalistic enterprise, and they don’t need anyone’s permission, including mine, to publish a ranking, and they have ready access to information from the ABA and other public sources to construct their rankings.

 

Whether Cornell Law School ultimately “withdraws” or not from the rankings, what we need is a deeper and more searching conversation about the role that rankings play in law school life, the legal profession, and higher education generally.

Again, I think they're not joining the boycott, but I'm really not sure.  Comments are open if any faculty from Cornell want to clarify.


November 24, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 23, 2022

Chicago is not joining the boycott

UC Irvine Law will not cooperate with USNews.com rankings

Announcement here.   This is a much riskier decision for Irvine than for Yale or Harvard, and perhaps signals that schools outside the top ranks will also boycott.

(Thanks to Sameer Ashar for the pointer.)


November 23, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

A boycott of USNews.com will only succeed if most law schools (not just top law schools) join it

The NYT story noted the other day foolishly invoked the nonsense category "top 14" in discussing schools that were declining to cooperate (UCLA's joining the boycott torpedoed that characterization).  As UCLA Interim Dean Korobkin correctly noted, 80% of the input data is available to USNews.com without the cooperation of the schools.  It will, however, be a lot more work for USNews.com to compile all this data on its own.  The loss of "free labor" by the schools won't matter if only 15 or 20 schools are boycotting.  If 100 or 150 schools are boycotting, that will be different, and could cause a logistical crisis for USNews.com. 

Right now, ten law schools are boycotting.  Because the first two--Yale and Harvard--are extremely prominent that has generated a lot of attention.  But it will take more than ten to create a problem for USNews.com's annual mischief.


November 23, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

November 22, 2022

UCLA Law will not cooperate with USNews.com, at least this year

The letter from Interim Dean Russell Korobkin, which makes a number of good points about the more general problems with what USNews.com does, that other Deans have not noted:

Continue reading


November 22, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

November 21, 2022

Michigan Law becomes 7th school to decline to cooperate with USNews.com rankings (UPDATED: also Duke and Northwestern)

Dean West's announcement is here.

UPDATE:  Two more:  Duke and Northwestern.  (Thanks to John Coates for the pointers.)

 

 

 

 

 


November 21, 2022 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

November 19, 2022

Stanford is out...

...but makes it pretty clear that if "the methodology is seriously overhauled" they may be back.  Meanwhile, this NYT story reports that some schools--for example, Boston University and George Mason University--are not planning to withdraw.  Both have done well in recent iterations of the USNews.com exercise, and without a brand name like "Harvard" to fall back on, the rankings give them free and helpful publicity.

Since it's clear not all law schools are going to withdraw, and since it's also clear USNews.com will continue to rank schools that do not cooperate (which has always been their practice), the question is whether if many or most top law schools withdraw that will undermine the (fake) legitimacy and influence of the rankings.  My guess is it will not, and that many of those that withdraw now will return after some tweaking of the formula (most of the tweaks proposed, it must be noticed, would favor the schools asking for them). 

Continue reading


November 19, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

November 18, 2022

And now there are four: Georgetown announces it will not participate in US News.com rankings (UPDATED)

Dean Treanor emphasizes the anti-public interest bias of the metrics, something mentioned by other schools.

(Thanks to John Coates for the pointer.)

MAKE THAT FIVE:  Columbia Law School will also not cooperate.


November 18, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink

Some realism about withdrawing from USNews.com (UPDATED)

USNew.com is not going to go gently into the good night it richly deserves, even if dozens and dozens of schools withdraw over the next week.  40% of the ranking consists in reputational surveys, that USNews.com controls, and even if the response rate drops, they will use what they can get (as they have done with the lawyer/judge surveys, where the response rate is 15% or less--it's gotten so low, they now average several years worth of results).  Most of the other data in the ranking stew is available to the public via the ABA.  (One data point that is not so available is expenditures, and it would be salutary if they had to drop that factor altogether, but more likely is that they would concoct estimates, which is how they standardly deal with non-cooperating schools.)    It is true that USNews.com has long depended on schools doing the work for them:  USNews.com rankings are a "lean" operation, one of the reasons they don't audit any self-reported data.  If schools don't cooperate, this would be a lot more work for USNews.com but given that the law school rankings are, along with the college rankings, their most influential product, my guess is they will do what it takes to keep it going (especially because of the risk that the boycott might spread to the colleges).

One worry I have is that the objections so far (by Yale, Harvard, and Berkeley) will be taken as an invitation by USNews.com simply to jigger the formula a bit.  In that regard, the objections voiced so far seem to me mistaken:  the problem is that the entire formula is indefensible and meaningless.  There is no explanation for why reputation is 40% and not 100% or 10%; there is no principled explanation for any of the weightings of any of the factors, and that's putting aside that a lot of the inputs are garbage data anyway.   The problem with USNews.com is that their ranking formula makes no sense, and it has never made sense for 30 years.  Objecting to this-or-that recent tweak to the formula is missing the forest for the twigs on the trees.

UPDATE:  US News has announced, as expected, that it will continue to rank all schools regardless of whether they submit data.  That has always been their approach in all their rankings.


November 18, 2022 in Rankings | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 17, 2022

Harvard Law School's statement on its withdrawal from the USNews.com rankings

I noted yesterday that both Yale and Harvard were withdrawing from the USNews.com charade.  Here is Dean Manning's statement on HLS's decision.

If over the next week, most of the other top 10-20 law schools withdraw, USNews.com will be in trouble.  It would undoubtedly be excellent for legal education if its current master were dethroned:  schools could resume making all decisions--from admissions to expenditures--based solely on academic considerations.  I recently mentioned three scenarios that might finish off USNews.com, but I hadn't thought of this one!


November 17, 2022 in Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink