Editorial: Relevant rankings

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First is the worst. Second is the best. Third is the one with the treasure chest. And fourth is Lehigh’s ranking on The Princeton Review‘s list of party schools.

The school is now also No. 44 on U.S. News and World Report’s best national universities, which is an improvement from last year.

We often raise a glass — sometimes to the dismay of the administration — to these rankings that we will add to the treasure chest that is made of Lehigh’s placement on several comparative lists.

We tend to use these rankings to validate the excellence of our school. We flaunt that we are in the top 50 “schools that pay you back,” according to The Princeton Review, and we proudly post on Facebook when Lehigh moves up on one of these lists.

At the same time, we tend to either ignore or attempt to minimize the effect of some of our other rankings, such as the “town-gown relations are strained” No. 5 ranking. We also don’t go yelling from the top of the mountain about our No. 16 LGBTQ unfriendly ranking.

This is in part because it is human nature to embrace the good and ignore the bad. We should acknowledge all of these rankings, but we should be aware that they do not define Lehigh University.

While they may provide an outsider with some idea of what it is like to attend school here, they arguably provide more insight about students’ perceptions of the campus climate than they do about the actual campus culture. These rankings provide insight to what we as students think about our school.

There should be less emphasis placed on our spot on the list as it relates to other schools. These surveys rank schools in relation to one another based on the perceptions only of the students who filled out the survey.

Instead, we should focus on what personal perceptions landed us on these specific lists.

The U.S. News rankings are based on a formula that considers both self-reported data and analysis done by the organization itself. The Princeton Review’s rankings are based solely on respondents’ answers to a survey. This means these rankings are based on perceptions more so than they are based on hard facts, in part because it is almost impossible to compare and quantify some things, such as the relationship between students and the residents of the town where their school is located.

Because of the self-reported data that is used to create these rankings, they are more of a reflection of how we as students of Lehigh University either view our school or want to view our school.

If a student personally has not interacted with South Bethlehem residents, there is a chance that students respond that our relationship with the town’s residents is terrible because that is the common perception.

We should question what makes us think that our relationship with the South Bethlehem community is strained. We should question why we, for the most part, value moving up on some lists, such as the party ranking. We should question why we, or at least the students who filled out the survey, perceive our campus community to be the way that it is.

The students who fill out these surveys do so by drawing on their learned experiences, and those have value. But not all students can answer every question based on experiences, so many questions have to be based on what they have heard and believe to be true, regardless if it is. This leads to the perpetuation of old ideas. Maybe we are partying more than we did in the past, which is why we moved up in the rankings. Or, maybe we moved up because we perceive Lehigh to be a party school, more than we perceived it to be in the past.

Fourth on a college rankings list isn’t the best. It’s not even relevant. What’s relevant is why we perceive we are a school that should be on these lists.

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