Rosenberg not asked to sign anti-rankings statement

By Amy Lieberman

On Sept. 7, four months after dozens of liberal arts colleges pledged to withdraw support for the U.S. News and World Report rankings, Amherst College president Anthony Marx distributed a similar statement renouncing the rankings. Seventeen other college presidents signed their names, but Macalester President Brian Rosenberg’s wasn’t one of them.This time around, though, Rosenberg’s decision to remain mum in the rankings debate wasn’t intentional-he simply wasn’t asked to sign the statement.

“The first I learned of it was when I read reports of it in the news,” Rosenberg said. “Had I been asked, I would have signed.”

In May, the Education Conservancy published a letter denouncing the U.S. News & World Report magazine’s annual college rankings. In June, liberal arts college presidents discussed the letter and the majority of the 80 presidents at the meeting pledged to not participate in the rankings. Rosenberg was not present at the summit.

Unlike the Education Conservancy’s letter, the recently published joint statement took a milder approach, committing to not mentioning U.S. News in any of the listed schools’ promotional materials. It also stated that the schools would publicly release their own data, instead of simply distributing it to “a single entity” such as the publisher of a college guide.

“We are concerned about the inevitable biases in any single ranking formula, about the admissions frenzy, and the way in which rankings can contribute to that frenzy and to a false sense that educational success or fit can be ranked in a single numerical list,” the statement explained.

The 18 schools that signed the statement were spread throughout the U.S. News rankings, ranging from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., listed at number one, to Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., which came in at number 34. Macalester was ranked number 26 this year.

The Mac Weekly reported last week that while Rosenberg remained ambivalent about the importance of the U.S. News rankings, he did say Macalester would no longer tout its placement on the school’s web page.

In an email, Rosenberg said the letter’s pledge was similar to what he had envisioned for Macalester, citing the views within it as “pretty consistent with our current and future practice.”

“I do not know why I was not asked to sign,” he added. “You’d have to ask the drafters of the letter that question.