College rankings make college administrators do strange things.
Stephen LeMenager, former director of admissions at Princeton, hacked into a Yale admissions database, purportedly to compare how Yale’s admissions stacked up against Princeton’s.
In an editorial, the New York Times blamed, in part, cutthroat competition to keep admissions rates low, one of the most important criteria for college rankings.
Reed College refused to answer US News and World Report surveys on the grounds the magazine will not accurately assess them (US News and World Report responded by rating them substantially lower).
But perhaps the strangest response to a high college ranking comes from Portland State University.
Recently, US News and World report, perhaps the most influential collegiate assessor, placed PSU fourth, nationally, in service learning.
While there are many who have worked for PSU’s respected service program, the Center for Academic Excellence, a little-known office that helps faculty assess their own teaching, has played an important part.
“I believe that center had a great deal to do with that ranking,” said Devorah Lieberman, the center’s director and vice provost and special assistant to the president for special initiatives.
So it may come as something of a surprise that the center is facing a proposed 15 percent budget cut, far greater than the 3 and 4 percent cuts proposed for most academic programs.
“The center isn’t an academic unit. It supports academic work, but it doesn’t have an academic component that brings in tuition money,” Lieberman said. “When the coin of the realm is tuition dollars, programs that don’t bring in money are less of a priority.”
The center began in January 1995, when the faculty senate restructured the general education program in part to emphasize community-based learning, Lieberman said.
Two stipend positions, the faculty-in-residence for tuition and the faculty-in-residence for scholarship will be lost.
“Faculty will have less assistance with teaching technology,” Lieberman said. “There will be many, many fewer faculty examining their own teaching and student learning in ways that are scholarly.”