I sent a quick letter to secretary of the faculty senate and the president of the MSP this morning:
I would like to call your attention to this article which describes how Clemson has been trying to game the rankings (and jumped from 38th to 22nd). It includes such chicanery as artificially limiting class sizes to below 20 (while allowing larger classes to get much larger) -- because "below 20" is a magical cut-off in the rankings. Student admissions are determined by how the SAT numbers will make the institution look. And there was a push to get large numbers of alumni to donate just $5 (because it makes the number of donors look good, even though the money itself is financially insignificant).
This kind of chicanery is exactly what I was warning about in my response to the Chancellor's Framework for Excellence.
These kinds of changes do nothing to actually help the research, service, and teaching of the University. They do not benefit -- and actually undermine -- the students, faculty, and mission of the institution. They represent diversions of funding that could be used to actually advance the institution, but are instead being spent to "influence" the rankings only.
Moreover, whatever benefits might be accrued by such changes in the rankings are bound to be short-lived. The rankings are artificial and contrived -- and will probably be changed as soon as it becomes apparent that institutions are gaming them.
I hope the Faculty Senate and Union will hold the chancellor accountable for his plan and work to ensure that this kind of game doesn't get played here. We need to look critically at our actual needs and devote spending to solve the problems we actually face. We must not engage in magical thinking that by gaming the rankings we can actually improve the institution.
- Steven D. Brewer's blog
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