Paul L. Caron

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Chicago And Cornell Are First Elite Law Schools To Refuse To Join U.S. News Rankings Boycott

Thomas J. Miles (Dean, Chicago), Rankings:

Chicago (2022)Many of you are aware that in the past week some law schools have announced that they will no longer participate in the U.S. News rankings. After conferring with University leaders and with some members of our faculty, our administrative team, and our alumni community, I have decided that we will continue to furnish information to U.S. News

My past practice has been to avoid direct, public comment on the U.S. News ranking. The ranking is not our guide, and I prefer to shine a light on the substantive attributes that make our Law School the home of the most intellectually ambitious faculty and the most powerful legal education.

Most of the data we supply to U.S. News are already public, and the rest is information we have no reason to withhold. The rankings of academic institutions clearly have a readership, and we wish to prevent the use of inaccurate information.

Fundamentally, a ranking of schools is an opinion. A ranking is the product of innumerable and contestable design choices. As our University is dedicated to the free expression of ideas and to questioning viewpoints, our aim is not to suppress opinions. Rather, we should encourage prospective students to apply critical thinking and reach their own conclusions about what value the rankings add.

My own belief is that the essential features of the University of Chicago Law School are not, and perhaps cannot be, captured in any ranking. What makes the Law School distinctive is its unabashed enthusiasm for the life of the mind—the conviction that ideas matter, that they are worth discussing, and that a single viewpoint or style of thought should not be imposed. Instead, our faculty expose students to contrasting views, confident in students’ abilities to think critically and choose their own paths. Our curriculum reflects a belief in generalist education and interdisciplinarity, and students learn from a faculty dedicated to teaching and serious inquiry. Our faculty produce path-breaking ideas about the most important questions of law and legal institutions through intense inquiry, a multiplicity of approaches, and dialogue with leading practitioners.

Our commitment to the core missions of excellence in scholarship and teaching has made our Law School eminent, and I am confident our commitment will make it ever more so in the future., UChicago Law Says It Will Not Follow Others in Boycotting US News Rankings:

Eleven other law schools have decided to cease participating in the U.S. News & World Report educational rankings, but third-place ranked University of Chicago Law School has announced it does not plan to follow suit.

Chicago's #3 ranking is its highest in at least 15 years.

Reuters, U. Chicago Law School Sticks With U.S. News Rankings as Peers Revolt:

Of the 196 law schools ranked by U.S. News, some will come to different conclusions about participating, said law school admissions consultant Mike Spivey.

“Chicago's decision very well may start a counter-reaction of other schools starting to announce that they will continue to submit their data, versus the snowballing opt-outs from the past week,” Spivey said. ...

The law schools at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Virginia and Cornell University were the only remaining T-14 schools that had not publicly staked out a position on the rankings as of Wednesday.

Forbes, University Of Chicago, Cornell Law Schools To Continue With U.S. News Rankings

Jens David Ohlin (Cornell), Statement Regarding U.S. News & World Report Rankings:

Cornell Logo (2019)Recent decisions by leading law schools to withdraw from the U.S. News & World Report rankings have sparked important discussions about its accuracy and influence. 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. This will be hard to achieve because it will require us to fight our natural tendency to want to win a competition, even if we didn’t create that competition or agree with its rules. We should move to a world where all of us—faculty, administrators, students, and applicants—focus on academic quality instead of numerical rankings that are, at best, a crude proxy for the reality on the ground, and at worst, a fundamental distraction from academic progress. I pledge myself to this effort.

Cornell's #12 ranking is its highest in 14 years

Brian Leiter (Chicago), Cornell's Statement on Rankings:

I think they're not joining the boycott, but it's actually a bit ambiguous. ... I think they're out, but I'm not certain. Comments are open if any faculty from Cornell want to clarify.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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