What Deans Say About The Rankings

University of Florida Levin College of Law Dean Robert Jerr

University of Florida Levin College of Law Dean Robert Jerr

Dean Robert Jerry, University of Florida Law (No Change)
I’m not losing sleep about it because I think most of the world has come to understand that this formula has become so flawed, it doesn’t have much meaning anymore. Some of the information that goes into the U.S. News formula is so bizarre by inclusion or omission, it’s hard to get concerned when a school moves any number.”
“I said for many years that U.S. News rankings are worthless, but we ignore them at our peril. This ranking does create peril when it’s used by people who don’t understand it.”
Our Take: “Waahh!” The gentleman doth protest too much. With his tenure ending shortly, Jerry isn’t holding anything back. But his exasperated “I know best” attitude is a real turn off. That said, it would be difficult to argue against his position.
Dean Vincent Rougeau, Boston College

Dean Vincent Rougeau, Boston College

Dean Vincent Rougeau, Boston College (Dropped 5 spots)
A decline matters. It’s disappointing to everyone when it happens. We don’t run our school based on how we’re evaluated by U.S. News. I set priorities for school that we’re pushing forward on … But the rankings are a way to know how you’re perceived externally. So when the perception by that measure is in decline, you want to address it…It’s important to students when they look at schools. It’s important to employers. It’s important to alumni because they want to see school be successful.”
“It was a small decline but it matters when schools are tightly bunched in the rankings … We’ve done a lot in career services – career placement and advice and assistance. We’ve done a reorganization there to make sure we service students as best we can. We’ve been pleased with how that’s gone. The data for [U.S. News] lags a year … There’s been an improvement in our [job] placement and that will be reflected next year.”
Our Take: Pitch perfect PR! A virtuoso balancing act! Dean Rougeau’s stance is measured and educational. He distances himself from the rankings, yet also acknowledges their value to stakeholders. He deftly minimizes the decline, while outlining recent progress. Most important, he pushes the true measure of progress to next year’s rankings (with a promise of better results). His job is safe for another year. Bravo!
Dean Jeremy Paul, Northeastern University School of Law (Ranked #93)
“The people who vote [on peer assessments] have the most traditional jobs at their schools. They judge schools on where faculty publish and the pedigree of the people … How much can each one of those people know about what’s happening at 200 law schools.”
Our Take: Another case of, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Paul comes across as a sullen Holden Caulfield, complaining how (sniff) adults just don’t understand and (sniff) life just isn’t fair. Again, he makes a valid point. It’s just too bad that Paul doesn’t practice what he preaches and refrain from voting.
Daniel Solove, Research Professor at George Washington Law School
Daniel Solove, Research Professor at George Washington Law School

Daniel Solove, Research Professor at George Washington Law School

(Rose 1 spot)
US News certainly has an incentive to create rankings that are considered to be highly plausible. Indeed, that is why many alternative rankings fail, because they often have some very weird results at odds with what most people think. When the rankings fail to list Harvard and Yale at the top, they are immediately suspect. US News rankings can be off for some schools by a fair degree, but overall, they are plausible enough that people generally accept them.
Why doesn’t US News strive to be more precise? Because it isn’t worth it to them. Their formula is easy to administer. It is costlier and more difficult to be better. For the schools, their ranking matters tremendously, but for US News, getting it more accurate isn’t the top priority. Selling the rankings is the priority.
In reality, rankings don’t change very much year to year. The reputation and quality of law schools vis-a-vis each other moves at a glacial pace. But glacial movement doesn’t sell magazines! Imagine if each year, US News were to publish the rankings and say: ‘They are exactly the same as last year’ or ‘Out of all the schools, one school went up one spot and another school went down one spot.’ Who would buy the rankings?”
Our Take: Notice a theme here? Blame the messenger! In this case, the messenger is U.S. News. I get the sense that Solove believes U.S. News is susceptible to corruption because it makes money. Perhaps he is unaware that George Washington Law is not immune from balancing profit with principle. His school also provides a service (education) to a customer (students) for a price (tuition and fees). In fact, his logic could apply to his own job. Since laws “don’t change very much year-to-year,” the university could probably bolster student support by playing back his lectures for the next few years. In the digital age, who needs live professors or classes?
Dean Francis “Jay” Mootz, University of Pacific (McGeorge) School of Law (Ranked #146)
California schools have not changed in relation with each other, but with the rest of the country. We’ve actually done a lot that U.S. News has not even factored in.”
Our Take: Ah, yes. Here’s another dean trying to negate their low placement rate. Sure, regional employment has an impact. But McGeorge has a 43.4% placement rate within nine months of graduation. When you hit that level, here’s an axiom to consider: “If you’re not concerned about student jobs, you’ll eventually need to worry about your own.”

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