Paul L. Caron

Monday, April 2, 2007

Should Deans Have Their U.S. News Cake and Eat It Too?

Gordon Smith outs those deans who signed the letter posted on the LSAC web site opposed to the U.S. News Rankings but crowed about their schools' rise in the rankings issued last week.  We made this point in What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, 82 Texas L. Rev. 1483 (2004) (footnotes below the fold):

Deans wait (often in fear) for the annual law school rankings to be released, and either celebrate a rise,[Fn. 90] or rush to explain a drop,[Fn. 91] in the rankings.[Fn. 92] Winners and losers are touted in faculty recruitment, with publications listing important “lateral moves,” as well as “up” and “down” trends in faculty hiring.[Fn. 93] ... [M]any of these deans who condemn the U.S. News & World Report rankings as biased, unscientific, and inaccurate “publicize their own rankings when the rankings are to their liking.”,

Fn. 90:  See, e.g., Boston College Law School, BCLS Moves Up To #22 in U.S. News & World Report (Mar. 30, 2001) (trumpeting Boston College’s rise from 25th in 2000 to 22nd in 2001); George Mason University School of Law, George Mason University School of Law Achieves Tier One Status in U.S. News & World Report Rankings (Mar. 28, 2001) (trumpeting George Mason’s rise into the top 50 in 2001); Allison Thompson, Law School Continues To Climb in Latest U.S. News Rankings (Apr. 7, 2003) (trumpeting the University of Connecticut’s rise from 43rd in 2002 to 40th in 2003); University of Maryland, UMB Rankings Rise—Again (Apr. 4, 2003) (trumpeting Maryland’s rise to 45th in 2003); Marquette University, U.S. News & World Report Graduate Rankings Announced (Apr. 7, 2003) (trumpeting Marquette’s rise into the top 100 in 2003); Jan Gleason, U.S. News & World Report Rankings Make Room for Several of Emory’s Graduate Programs (Feb. 23, 1998) (trumpeting Emory’s rise from 27th in 1997 to 25th in 1998).

Fn. 91:  For a Dean’s particularly pained mea culpa explaining his school’s drop from 26th in 2002 to 45th in 2003 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, see W.H. Knight, U.S. News and World Report—Disappointing News (Apr. 7, 2003) (explaining the lower ranking at the University of Washington).

Fn 92:  See Arthur Austin, The Postmodern Buzz in Law School Rankings, 27 Vt. L. Rev. 49, 52 (2002) (“For law school deans, March is the cruelest month. Publication of the U.S. News Rankings supplies every constituency with a graphic snapshot of where they live in legal education society. Unless the school moves up, it’s a no win situation: no movement forces the Dean’s office to issue a litany of promises and explanations, while a drop can prompt vicious clique activity, threatening inquiries from the provost, and alumni indignation, which ironically a dean can use to leverage increased donations.”); Patrick E. Hobbes, Noblesse Oblige: Four Ways the “Top Five” Law Schools Can Improve Legal Education, 33 U. Tol. L. Rev. 85, 86 (2001) (“I don’t believe there is a single dean that can say he or she does not pay some attention to U.S. News & World Report. Moreover, I have yet to meet any dean who thinks we are fortunate to have this annual survey, that the ranking provides valuable consumer information.”).

Fn. 93:  Since 2000, Brian Leiter has annually tracked what he calls “the ten most significant law faculty moves” in his Law School Observer column in The Green Bag: 6 Green Bag 2d 421 (2003); 6 Green Bag 2d 77 (2002); 5 Green Bag 2d 203 (2002); 4 Green Bag 2d 193 (2001). He provides on his web site a listing of law school faculty moves for 1995–2004: Brian Leiter, Law School Faculty Moves, 1995– 2004.

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I have also seen one part of a university (law school) condemn the US News rankings while another part of the same university (undergraduate) crows about it.

Posted by: pat | Apr 2, 2007 9:09:26 AM