More on the move to not participate in the US News ranking process (previous discussion here and here).

But even some colleges that have expressed a dissatisfaction with the U.S. New rankings are not necessarily ready to stop participating in the survey.

“We have always participated in the past, and we haven’t decided if we will participate” in the future, said Jim Kolesar, spokesman for Williams College in Williamstown, which is perennially ranked near the top of the magazine’s list.

Asked why the college would continue to participate in the survey if it wasn’t happy with the system, Kolesar said “because the argument could be that the magazine will continue to rank colleges anyway . . . so you would want the data to be accurate.”

Kelly said U.S. News’ rankings wouldn’t be significantly affected by a defection, since it gets thousands of responses. Smaller colleges at the bottom of the rankings might get bumped off, however, if there are fewer respondents, he said.

There is so much stupidity and hypocrisy in this whole discussion that it is tough to know where to begin.

1) Colleges can’t (meaningfully) choose to not participate. US News does not need their permission to rank them. It’s a free country! Moreover, much of the information that US News uses for ranking is publicly available — and disclosure is mandated by the Federal Government. Rankings will always be with us.

2) Even the colleges who are claiming that they will no longer participate are posturing. The main concrete action that they are (claiming) to take is to no longer return the US News reputation survey. But colleges themselves don’t participate, individuals do. And it’s a free country. If US News sends a survey form to Dean Roseman, she can fill it out if she wants to. Williams can’t stop her.

3) Now, I suppose that most of the faculty/administrators at the colleges that are declining to participate will probably go along with the wishes of their employer. Yet, they don’t have to. Moreover, there is no mechanism to ensure that they do. In fact, the incentives run the other way. One way to move up in the rankings is to get everyone else to stop sending in the form while you (and your buddies) do so and rank yourselves highly. Don’t think that this sort of collusion goes on? I’ll take the other side of that bet.

4) My thoughts on Lloyd Thacker, a prominent opponent of US News ranking and other trends which empower students, are the same as always.

5) Anyone who is honestly interested in providing more and better information to potential students would work on, you know, proving more and better information. Want to make US News less important? Build something better. Here is one approach. If Colleges were to release more detailed input data (high school grades and standardized test scores) along with any output data (graduate employment, graduate school admissions, GRE/LSAT/MCAT/GMAT scores, student satisfaction), then it would be possible to compare colleges directly, if imperfectly.

6) But the Lloyd Thackers and Annapolis Groups of the world are not really interested in empowering you, dear reader. You are an idiot. You can’t be expected to use information thoughtfully, to weigh the pros and cons of rankings like that of US News. You are unqualified to judge colleges, just as you are too stupid to weigh competing financial aid offers.

Instead, colleges are here to judge you.

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