The Dartmouth Observer
Friday, October 17, 2003
From the article in The Atlantic that so many people are talking/blogging about:
"(When enduring change does occur, the explanation may be cultural and reflect nothing about a school's inherent quality. America's urban renaissance, for instance, which has made city schools more attractive to students, might lie behind the steady rise of Columbia and Penn and the slow fall-off by Dartmouth and Cornell.)"
What dropoff is the author talking about? If rankings are anything, we've stayed relatively the same for the past decade, peaking at number seven and bottoming out at 14, if I'm not mistaken. However, this seems to me to be a case of the author stretching tendentiously to find a point, seizing one, and then injecting it into his own story.
Furthermore, those schools don't even match up in his example. Columbia has always enjoyed a solid reputation, even if Penn has not. Cornell and Dartmouth are both rural, yes, but are they completely different educational institutions, one geared toward a massive grad student population and the other not? Of course. Other variables must apply in these specific cases.
Let's look at that first sentence again then: When enduring change does occur, the explanation may be cultural and reflect nothing about a school's inherent quality.
Doesn't this read like so much trash now? How can a school possess an inherent quality? Obviously the culture around a school and in America at large affects how a school is perceived. How otherwise can we explain Brown's recent surge in popularity? There is probably no such thing as "inherent quality" in something as Protean as an undergraduate university. Universities have the inertia or reputation and history, but we've seen all too clearly that these things can begin to be eradicated through the persistent efforts of the administration or academy.