Posts tagged ‘college’


This article was originally posted at The Nation on May 4, 2010.

Sixty-six college presidents refused to fill out the US News and World Report’s well-known college ranking survey, which was released May 3. In a letter, they called on fellow college presidents to follow their example. Each year college presidents, provosts and deans of admissions receive the peer assessment survey, which asks them to evaluate the academic standards of 260 higher education institutions across the country on a scale from “distinguished” to “marginal.” But many presidents argue that the survey is a waste of time and produces misleading results.
Many presidents say a five-point rating system is sufficiently nuanced to judge large institutions that may academically strong in some areas and weaker in others. In a letter initially signed by twelve college presidents, which is being sent to all universities involved in the survey, the rankings are described as “obscur[ing] important differences in educational mission in aligning institutions on a single scale.” The president of Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland Sanford Ungar explains how impractical the survey is, “I would better be able to fill out a survey on refrigerators than on colleges I’ve never visited, never interacted with.”

In addition, the letter acknowledges the amount of PR, gamesmanship and even outright lying that colleges and universities engage in to boost their rankings. As the Washington Post reports every year colleges and universities send their counterparts brochures, CDs and other goodies that talk up their academic achievements. Several colleges, such as Clemson University and the University of Wisconsin, have admitted to underrating other colleges in order to achieve a higher ranking.

Inside Higher Ed published an article that shows just how subjectively each institution approaches the rating system.

The form submitted by the provost at the University of Wisconsin at Madison deemed 260 of its 262 peer institutions to be of “adequate” quality. A survey from the University of Vermont’s president listed “don’t know” for about half of the universities. The forms provided by Ohio State University’s president and provost were virtually identical. And the University of Florida’s president, like his highly publicized colleague at Clemson University, rated his own institution well above many of his competitors.

The peer assessment portion counts as 25 percent of the overall rankings. Defenders of the survey value the peer assessment because they are averaged together and are just a quarter of the entire ranking system. Additionally, some presidents believe in the accuracy of the scores if those taking the surveys only rate the institutions they are intimately familiar with and mark the “don’t know” option for the rest. University of Vermont’s Director of Institutional Studies Fred Curran said that he marked “don’t know” for 156 universities, rather than putting time into researching the institutions he knew nothing about. “I don’t think US News expects you to evaluate every institution,” he said.

In a blog post Bob Morse, the director of data research for US News and World Report, explains the reasoning behind the peer assessment survey, “U.S. News knows that peer assessments are subjective, but they are also important—a diploma from a distinguished college can help a graduate get a good job and gain admission to a top-notch graduate program.” Morse also emphasized that the rest of the ranking system, 75 percent, is “based on a formula that uses objective measures of academic quality such as graduation and retention rates, admission statistics, and financial and faculty resource data.”

But the 66 presidents, who signed the letter boycotting the rankings, want a different assessment. Backed by the Education Conservancy, a 2004 non-profit working to develop a “robust, nuanced, and educationally sound web-based system” to accurately assess universities, the issue is finally getting some attention. The biggest challenge will be overcoming the traditionalism of a ranking system spanning more than two decades. Curran admits that opting out of the survey is inconceivable; “it’s something we’ve got to do — it’s been around long enough.”


May 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment


… dedicated, ambitious or just plain crazy – early risers and late-nighters are living their lives with little or no sleep.




The life of a college student – late nights, late classes and sleeping-in. Or maybe not. Here are a few students who challenge the sleep-a-holic stereotype, proving that some students do more in the wee hours of the night than most people do all day.


“I joke with my friends that I do more before the sun comes up than my friends do all day,” said Madie Northrop, a sophomore recreational management major and member of the women’s crew team. Because women’s crew has two seasons, 5:45 a.m. practices last all-year long, Monday through Friday. Team members can sleep in on Saturday, but only a little. Practices begin at 6:30 a.m.

Northrop said there is one positive about the team’s practice times. Kelly Drive is practically empty; she can sleep later and drive faster to practice. One can imagine how tired the members of the team must be when that 10:30 p.m. curfew rolls around.

So how can anyone wake up at 4 a.m. when the only light in sight is emitted
from the alarm clock? According to Northrop, it’s all about positive thinking.

“Of course I’m tired mentally during the day,” she said. “But you push through it. A lot of sports call it ‘breaking through the wall.’ It’s a part of it.”

And there’s more motivation than that. If one practice is missed, the team has to run the stairs of Wachman Hall – all 12 flights. And if that’s not enough, there’s more inspiration. “Having a gold medal around my neck makes it all worth it,” Northrop said.


Weekend or not, most college students love to party. But while few feel pity for the hung-over kid who fails the test in his 8:40 a.m. class, perhaps we should start to feel sympathy for those whose job it is to keep those party animals happy.

Meet Jordan Poole, a junior film and media arts major by day and ‘DJ Royale’ by night. He spends at least three nights a week mixing the songs you dance to at various bars in Center City, house and fraternity parties. While the bar crowd is safe at home on the couch, Poole is still packing up his DJ equipment, waiting for his money and then a cab.

“By the time I get home,” Poole said, “it’s three o’clock at the earliest.” Sometimes he returns home even later when he works fraternity or house parties. Though Poole makes sure he finishes his homework early and said he usually gets enough sleep on a nightly basis, he admits that he eventually ends up feeling worn out. So how does he stay awake during classes, and more importantly, keep his energy up while he’s at work?

He remembers who he is playing for. “I hope for a good turnout. I hope people dance. If not, it makes the night so much longer,” he said. “If the crowd is into it ? I can go from being tired to pumped up.”

But his night doesn’t end when the music stops.One night, Poole came home around 4 a.m. only to find people on his stoop blasting music. “I tried to go to sleep, but I ended up going outside and hanging out until 6 or 7 in the morning,” Poole said.


The sun is just rising. The roads are empty. A peaceful stillness fills the South Philly streets. The only sound comes from his shoes springing off the pavement. If this were a scene straight out of “Rocky,” Matt Makowski is playing Sylvester Stallone’s double.

Makowski, a junior film and media arts major, trains at 7 a.m., six days a week at Philly’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy, located at 1321 Jupiter St. His training, which usually lasts between one and three hours, includes running, jumping rope, shadowboxing, sprints, sparring and boxing with pads.

Makowski has been kickboxing for two years and has since learned the sacrifices that come with being the best. Sometimes he said he feels like he is missing out on parties, especially since can’t afford to be hung over on Saturday mornings. After he finishes sparring on weekdays, he fights to stay awake in class. Sleep is easy for Makowski, but it’s also the enemy.

Sometimes Makowski unconsciously beats his alarm clock to death in the middle of the night. “I’ll wake up after it was supposed to go off and I don’t remember turning it off,” he said while boasting that he manages to wake up no more than half an hour later. “I guess I have a good internal clock, and that wakes me up.”


The TECH Center isn’t the most romantic location for a marriage proposal. But late one night, Adrian Sierkowski was one of a handful of students to witness the scene.

“She said no, but in a very logical way,” Sierkowski said. “She didn’t want it to happen in the TECH Center.” Sierkowski, a junior film and media arts major, is a TECH Center student employee, who works every Thursday night from 11:30 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Sierkowski’s late-night shift actually begins around 9:30 p.m., when he first grabs something to eat once he finishes classes.

“I figured I would just work straight after class, rather than going home and coming right back,” he said.

In order to stay awake and prevent death by boredom during his shift, Sierkowski watches seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy” and other shows on the computers, obsessively checks his MySpace page and drinks about five cups of coffee per night.

At about 6 a.m. the aimless meandering begins. “I can’t fall asleep if I’m walking around,” Sierkowski said. It’s how he keeps himself occupied, until the number of people in the TECH Center begins to multiply.

“People ask me questions and that sort of keeps me awake,” he said. One may expect the shift to get boring, but the night shift is anything but. “The weirdest stuff happens during the overnight shift,” Sierkowski said.

Proposals at 4 a.m., people falling asleep while they work, police escorting
a homeless man away and a group of girls watching gay porn in a conference room, just to name a few. But the strangest occurrence is due to nature.

“Every night at 4 a.m. these birds start flying into everything – buildings, trees, parked cars,” Sierkowski said.

“And then they land on the street and stop moving. It’s so surreal. It’s dead silent and nobody’s around.”

So what could possess any student to work the night shift at the TECH Center? The $14 per hour pay rate? The strange incidents that occur? Try something else.

“Sometimes I’m stopped in the street during the day by students who recognize me,” Sierkowski said. “They say, ‘Hey, you work at the TECH Center and you helped me finish my project at 4 a.m.!'” It seems a little appreciation can go a long way or, more accurately, a long night.

Nov 14, 2006 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

Twitter Updates