BEYOND THE HEDGES: College's president urges boycott of `U.S. News'

The president of Alma College is asking officials at 480 liberal arts institutions to boycott requests by U.S. News and World Report for their views of peer institutions.

Each spring, the magazine asks college presidents and other high-ranking officials to rank their peers. That "academic reputation vote," as Alma calls it, accounts for 25 percent of each college's final position in the U.S. News rankings.

Last fall, Alma College surveyed 158 presidents, provosts and admissions officers about the U.S. News rankings. According to the college, 84 percent of the respondents admitted that they were unfamiliar with some of the institutions they had been asked to rank. Almost 44 percent indicated that they "tended to leave responses for unfamiliar schools blank."

Alma president Alan Stone said, "This makes me wonder just how many votes are being considered for each school's academic reputation ranking," explaining his attempt to organize a boycott.

Last week, he sent results of the study to 160 colleges that participate in the U.S. News rankings and then asked them to boycott the peer rankings.

U.S. News spokesman Bruce Zanca defended the magazine's rankings. "A reasonable person might come to the conclusion that Alma College doesn't like where it has ended up," Zanca said.

"Maybe this is a little bit of sour grapes."

In the 1997 rankings, Alma was rated in the third of four tiers in the category for national liberal arts colleges.

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 31.

This item appeared in the News section of the January 31, 1997 issue.

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