Letter: On top or above it all?

Most people at this school have noticed the ranking that U.S. News & World Report has given Williams in the Liberal Arts Category. This has received different responses on- and off- campus. The students seem to be pleased; and although it hasn’t changed the weather or cancelled Orgo’s final, I’ve heard of “#1” parties being planned. The faculty and administration seem pleased – Morty mentioned it in his introductory remarks to the ’07 class, as did the alumni representative. My psych professor referenced our paramount status, coupled with a disparaging comment about Amherst. My parents haven’t commented, or sent me any extra money. Life seems to go on as normal.

I think we should temper our excitement over the ranking for two reasons: I contest the notion that a school can be rated, and I think we as a college should be more mature than to celebrate some ephemeral, arbitrary number.

When tours come through the frosh quad, the guides comment on Williams’ distinctions: the entry system (not our graduation rates within six years). There is no “quality of life” point system in the scoring process, though if there were we’d be noted for our continual cheeriness. Also, the college experience is for the most part identical across the U.S. – meet a lot of people, make some friends, go to class and come away after four years having learned something. Why is Skidmore, which in my mind provides a very similar experience to Williams, 46 positions down the totem pole?

What kind of stake does the magazine have in the whole deal? Their “#1” interest is to make money – they don’t have an interest in improving education in the country. To make the magazine interesting and to sell more copies to residents in Philadelphia’s suburbs, the rankings will no doubt change, as they always do. Will we crow about our #2 status then? Let’s concentrate on improving our own college experiences, not focusing on what other folks have to say.

Isaac Foster ’05

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