For Butler’s future, throw away the lists

U.S. News & World Report has once again ranked Butler University No. 2 among Midwest regional universities. It’s a great accomplishment for a great school.

These rankings continue to become more influential to students and parents trying to make a decision about their education. But students should keep in mind that one list does not define a university.

Students should use these rankings to decide which universities to apply to. But they should not use them to decide which university to attend.

Likewise, administrators shouldn’t make policy decisions solely to increase the school’s rank.

Fortunately, our new president agrees.

In an interview with Collegian staff writer Kyler Naylor, President Jim Danko said, “No ranking is a perfect indicator of the strengths or even the weaknesses of a university. So we certainly want to celebrate when we do well because there is some indication, all be it not perfect, of your university. But one thing I’ve always been very cautious about is building a university premised on rankings.”

Ranking indicators change every year, and if Butler makes changes based on a moving target, we easily could miss.

Furthermore, rankings cannot quantify how well an individual student will fit into a particular program or college. That fit, more than any other factor, should help define a student’s choice.

No matter how hard they try, one set of criteria cannot analyze the qualities of all faculty on a campus. It’s impossible to know what it feels like to throw a ball around the mall on a cool September afternoon. And forget about measuring the feeling on campus when a basketball team goes to back-to-back Final Fours.

U.S. News & World Report uses a broad array of criteria to measure their schools. And they should be used to determine, generally, which schools are better than others.

But that’s not really what rankings are for anymore.

They’re for marketing purposes. They’re for the ubiquitous pamphlets found in admissions offices across the country. They’re for university web pages, press releases and presidents’ speeches.

The rankings do not take into account the success of a university’s alumni. The rankings do not measure the value of the research coming out of a university’s faculty and PhD programs.

Neither do they measure students’ community service, nor universities’ social mobility—the recruitment and graduating of low-income students.

Instead the rankings measure how similar a university is to Harvard, Yale and Princeton. But Butler is not, nor will it ever be, an Ivy League university.

And that is absolutely fine.

Change is good. But we don’t want to change for change’s sake or just to move up a rank. Butler should be known for how Bulldogs are helping to shape the future of our state and our nation; how four years of living the Butler Way can change lives.

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