Back in March, we shared with you how a professor at Columbia University had investigated the data reported by Columbia to U.S. News about undergraduate admissions. Here’s the original analysis by Dr. Michael Thaddeus , unsurprisingly a math professor there.
After the school administrators got over their anger and embarrassment, they apparently did the right thing, and investigated the professor’s investigations.
The result, for now, is that Columbia won’t be submitting undergrad data to U.S. News this year. (Article pulled as PDF here, in case that link to Columbia’s servers ever goes bad.)
Why do we bring this to your attention today?
Well, for one, it’s always nice to see where a story goes. Follow-ups can be interesting.
Another point of course is our perennial caution against over-reliance on rankings. This centered on the undergraduate rankings and did not explicitly cover anything from the professional graduate schools, so we don’t have information either way on how Columbia Business School has navigated the task of reporting their own data. Still, this shows how easy it is to game the system.
About a decade ago, NYU got dinged for omitting some key data in their reporting to U.S. News. It sounded like an innocent oversight, and they since rebounded, as that post covers in detail.
At least in that case, someone was paying attention.
Isn’t it rather astounding that it took essentially a whistleblower at Columbia to stand up and say “Hey, something doesn’t smell right here”? Nobody else thought twice — not the recipients of the data at U.S. News, not any other schools, not Columbia’s own administrators (though why would they, given the benefits they were getting — many top leaders at these schools have compensation tied directly or indirectly to rankings and reputation). It’s good that Columbia took this seriously, though honestly, they sorta had to. Deans at smaller schools have lost their jobs over falsifying data to the rankings publications. How many people have looked at these data and not bothered to look any further?
WaPo covered this and quoted Professor Thaddeus as saying:
“I just wondered: How can this be that we’re performing so well in this ranking against universities that objectively have certain advantages over us? They have much larger endowments. They have a lot more physical space.”
In other words: He looked at the data; he looked at what the data were supposed to represent; he looked at reality; he said “Huh.” Then he kept looking.
The other reason we’re posting this, though, is because it’s evidence that a single person can have an impact.
In today’s America, there is a lot of questioning around where the country is going, and the (ab)use of power by a certain minority. You may be wondering what is happening right before our very eyes.
Seeing evidence that yes, speaking out can bring change, that matters right now.
There’s lots of “change the world” sentiment in MBA admissions essays. Getting an MBA puts you in a new class of educated elite. It will open doors, increase your earnings potential, and also give you greater privileges in a society that values such things. Staying grounded on the realities of what needs to change and how can change happen is something we hope you will do.
Or perhaps you’ll even do it now. Who needs an MBA to change the world? It just needs to take courage and not looking the other way.
Tell us what you think.