Calling Dick McCormick: Rankings Disaster Zone

The new US News & World Report graduate study rankings are out and — aarggh! Dick, where art thou? Rutgers’ claim to academic leadership is disintegrating before our eyes.

You will recall — we recall — you telling the New York Times in 1990, back when you were dean of faculty:

“The financial difficulties at Rutgers came at a time when the institution seemed to be making significant strides in gaining the respect it so covets. Dr. McCormick said that the departments of political science, chemistry, psychology and computer science were on the brink of achieving the national prominence already enjoyed by its departments of English, history, philosophy, physics and astronomy, and mathematics, and that many others had well-developed plans in place to make the leap.

“‘This is the shame of it all,’ he said. ‘There are a number of departments that are in that position. They have every legitimate academic reason to make that jump in the early 90’s, but the dollars aren’t there.’”

18 years later and into the 6th year of your presidency, how is Rutgers faring?

Not very well, thank you, at least not academically.

Ah, “the shame of it all,” to borrow McCormick the youngster’s rhetoric.

The Philosophy Dept. remains second-best in the English-speaking world (tied with Oxford). This is per PGR, the accepted rating service. (USN&WR does not rank philo depts.) Philosophy has been Rutgers’ best department for perhaps 15 years, long before McCormick’s presidency.

Criminology, at Newark-Rutgers, probably is the university’s next best program — it ranks 4th in the US News & World Report ranking.

Next up, English, at #16, a ranking unchanged in decades.

History follows at #17. No real change in decades.

Math is down to #24. Physics is now #26.

Then things start really slipping. Political Science, cited by McCormick as on the brink of excellence, ranks #41.

Chemistry is #68.

Computer Sciences is #31.

Psychology is #77.

Biological Sciences rank #48.

The two law schools (gasp) are tied at #77

The business school is #45.

Engineering is #52.

At Rutgers, climbing into national prominence under McCormick palpably has become a hashish dream, mere wisps of smoky hope — and for most chairs, no matter how reasonable their plans, the climb is about as likely as scaling Mt. Everest in January in the thick of the Nepalese winter.

Gentlemen, ladies, settle back in your chairs and pick up that Richard Farina book, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.

We suppose the one bit of good news is that just about every academic department ranks higher than the money-pit of ineffectualness that is men’s basketball (ranked #197, per Sagarin).

But where might these departments rank were money stripped away from sports and put into academics? That is what you call a rhetorical question because we know it isn’t happening as long as Dick McCormick is Rutgers’ president, even as he pulls the school along in pursuit of his apparent goal of transforming Rutgers into the Louisville of the North.

Don’t forget our mission statement:

O Commit to a pledge that, by 2015, Rutgers will have 15 academic programs nationally ranked in the top 15…20 by 2020, and 25 by 2025. Put academics first and mean it.

Difficult? You bet — but does one of the nation’s richest and best-educated states deserve less?


7 Responses to Calling Dick McCormick: Rankings Disaster Zone

  1. John.G says:

    Sad and tragic for those of us who still care about this university. For the idiots who post on the football boards, I doubt anything would bother them less. McCormick should be sacked immediately. His tenure has been one of weakness, dishonesty and capitulation to the boosters on the BoG. Disgusting.

    My poor old Rutgers…

  2. Josh M. says:

    Haha! Are you actually taking US News and World Reports ranking seriously? Have you read through their methodology? For some fields 40% of the ranking score comes from opinion surveys (popularity contest), with only those respondents returning the survey and not marking don’t know as an answer counting in a schools score. For an example taken directly from their methodology section for science programs:

    “Response rates were as follows: For biological sciences, 21 percent of those surveyed responded; for chemistry, 32 percent; for computer science, 48 percent; for earth sciences, 40 percent; for mathematics, 33 percent; and for physics, 32 percent.”

    So if a large number of respondents are biased towards a particular school’s program or not many are familiar with the program that can have a large influence on the ranking that the school has no power over.

    Furthermore, these opinions have built up about programs over time and do not necessarily reflect recent improves and/or developments in the programs. In addition for some of these fields the surveys are from 2005. So recent additions or losses of top faculty members from various institutions do not factor into some rankings.

  3. John.G says:

    Furthermore, it seems such a sad sign of the times that we’ve just been passed in the maths rankings by the University of Maryland. Oh well, at least Rutgers will have a new football stadium.

  4. John.G says:

    Josh – good point, but it doesn’t alter the fact that these rankings are influential enough to carry real weight. Hell, Rutgers uses the USNWR ratings itself on its latest pamphlet.

  5. RUsupporter says:

    Why does everyone think that our rankings are slipping because of football, when in fact less money now is used up for football than years ago when Rutgers’s US News rankings were better? Even though less money was spent on football then, there has been such a huge increase in revenue generated by football that it actually costs lesst to run now than it did when the team was awful. But don’t let the facts get in the way of your argument… and don’t consider the state cutting RU’s budget by hundreds of millions of dollars as a reason for its decline in the rankings… just keep blaming football despite strong evidence to the contrary.

  6. ashok says:

    I don’t like college rankings one bit, but they do tell outsiders to academia whether a department is known or trying to be known for anything besides mediocrity. They’re nowhere near an exact guide, but they’re important enough unless you know exactly who you want to work with in what field.

    It is sad Rutgers is slipping. Then again, it is possible for Rutgers to commit to undergraduate education and rate low in these rankings because people actually care to teach. I am pretty sure that is not happening in this world of “excellence,” where big business tells us what an education is or isn’t.

  7. […] not saying academic department rankings are worthless. For example, Rutgers’ 1000 lament that the latest rankings are low is more than justified – the rankings are screaming that Rutgers is falling […]

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