University of California, Berkeley School of Law is about to graduate US News & World Report”s annual ranking. It is the third top 10 school to leave the magazine’s list in less than 48 hours. Yale Law School made the first announcement Wednesday morning, followed by Harvard.
Inside message To the law school community, Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky made a few points that echoed the sentiments of Yale Law School Dean Heather K. Gerken in his announcement: that rankings discourage institutions from accepting low-income students and supporting students interested in public service. “There are aspects US news charts that are deeply at odds with our values and public mission,” Chemerinsky wrote. (A magazine spokesperson disputed similar criticism Chronicle on Wednesday.)
The schools did not coordinate these activities, said Yale Law School spokeswoman Debra Kroszner: “Our decision-making process was completely independent.”
However, law school leaders had discussed what they believed to be problems US news formula for a while. A few years ago, a group of deans wrote a letter US news editors, outlining their grievances. Nothing changed, Gerken said.
College rankings have generally drawn criticism for high test scores and institutional wealth as a way of creating student social mobility. But historically, most college leaders participated regardless, calculating that they had more to lose than to gain by withdrawing in protest. Especially for law schools in the “middle” or “top” of the rankings, “it means a lot to potential students if you go down or up in the rankings,” said Michael Sauder, professor of sociology. The University of Iowa, which examines the ranking. “That makes it much harder for those schools to take the risk of not participating.”
For those at the top, however, the risks may be lower. And maybe, as Gerken said Wednesday, “Now is the time to step up.”