Apr 10, 2011, 10:15 PM
I take your point; I think my concern is that often referring to them as "my rankings" is a way to either discredit them (by suggesting they are merely the opinions of one man) or downplay their significance (by disassociating them from their institutional sponsor). There is a group of actual people behind the U.S. News & World Report rankings, too, of course, but no one bothers to find out who they are -- no one cares. And if the rankings were not constantly under attack by those who don't really understand what they are and how they work, I think I would merely be seen as a freelance journo who collects data for the "Poets & Writers MFA rankings," and not some gent who has developed some kind of arcane methodology that makes sense to only him. The same folks who commonly use the phrase "Seth Abramson's rankings" are also strangely loath to speak of the three hard-data rankings in the rankings chart (Funding, Selectivity, Placement) or all the unranked data that would help explain a program's popularity -- for instance, does Penn State have a great student-to-faculty ratio? (yes); does it comply with the CGSR, suggesting sensitivity to the needs of applicants? (yes); is the cost of living in Happy Valley reasonable? (yes) -- and instead act naively bewildered about what the rankings could possibly be saying, as if they are _only_ constituted by the largest (two-thousand-plus strong, five-year) poll of MFA applicants ever taken.
P.S. Case-in-point: An individual comes on the board and says, as has been said before, that the P&W rankings are like asking the opinion of someone who's never eaten at a restaurant what they think of the restaurant. Is there really not one person here who could point out the obvious: No ranking system ever devised relies on the self-reporting of currently in-program faculty and students regarding their own experiences, because to do so would invite self-serving responses and inject a terminal degree (no pun intended) of bias into the methodology? Why does no one ask these people to point to even a _single_ credible national ranking methodology -- in any field, at any point in history -- that does what they've suggested? Or maybe someone could point out that, in fact, one can learn _hundreds_ of things about a restaurant before ever tasting its food? Or that, in fact, a single patron's reaction to a restaurant's food is often based on personal taste, whereas reportage of immutable restaurant traits is more likely to allow potential restaurant-goers (for whom the rankings are intended) to make their own decisions? These are obvious replies, but it's much more satisfying to snipe from a distance or hide behind those doing so. It's still, after all these years, remarkable to me.
(This post was edited by umass76 on Apr 10, 2011, 10:19 PM)