University mulls over ratings
Publication Date: Wednesday Feb 19, 1997

STANFORD: University mulls over ratings

Students leading fight against U.S. News & World Report

Stanford University officials are deciding whether they will fill in the 1997 version of the forms that U.S. News & World Report has sent to universities every January for the last 10 years.

The magazine uses the data on the forms to then compile and publish "America's Best Colleges," which the magazine says is the best-selling college guidebook of its type (the magazine won't release circulation numbers).

Stanford President Gerhard Casper wrote a letter to the magazine last fall, protesting the rating system as being flawed.

Casper called the ratings "utterly misleading" because of the formulas the magazine uses to come up with the ratings it publishes. For instance, he noted that Stanford fell three places in the category of "financial resources" although Stanford's financial resources did not decrease, and he doubted if the financial resources of other universities changed that much in one year to affect the rankings.

Stanford wouldn't appear to have much to complain about as one of the elite universities, although it did fall from number four to number six last year.

Now, with a group of students from universities around the country trying to fight the magazine's efforts, Stanford has to decide whether it will send in the data or do something else.

The coalition of students, Forget U.S. News Coalition (FUNC), is asking the university presidents across the country to not send in the data to the magazine.

Alma College in Michigan is the first to refuse to do so this year, but if a heavyweight like Stanford boycotted the ratings, it could have an effect on other universities.

"He is exploring that and several other ideas," Terry Shepard, the university's director of communications, said of Casper. About boycotting the magazine ratings, Shepard said, "He hasn't ruled it in or out."

Shepard said that a decision should come relatively soon.

Nick Thompson, vice president of the Stanford student government and an organizer of FUNC, was pleased to hear that Casper may decide to not send in the data. "There are a whole lot of schools that are thinking of not participating," Thompson said.

Thompson and three other students met with U.S. News editors last fall to press their case. "They were quite vocal in their opinions," said Bruce Zanca, spokesman for the magazine.

"We're listening to suggestions (about how to improve the ratings), and we always have," Zanca said. "We're committed to making this as practical a product for consumers as we can."

Reed College in Portland, Ore. began to boycott the magazine several years ago, Thompson said, and was punished when the magazine came up with its rating for Reed without getting data from the college. The school is now listed in the magazine's directory of universities and colleges, but it is no longer part of the ratings that are published.

--Don Kazak

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