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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Dean Mead responds to rankings drop
Posted 11:59 PM by Luke
In response to calls from several students for an administration response to IU Law- Indy's drop in the USNWR rankings, interim dean Susanah Mead wrote the following:

Dear Students,

A number of you have contacted me in the past few days expressing concerns about the new US News & World Report law school rankings, which were published last week. I want to address those concerns.

First, please be aware that these rankings are not accepted or approved by any organization in legal education or by any public agency. The American Bar Association, the official law school accrediting agency, has a specific policy of not ranking law schools because no reliable methodology for ranking has been devised. In addition, the deans of nearly every law school have gone on record in the past denouncing the US News rankings. These rankings are flawed for many reasons, including their failure to take account of many factors that distinguish one law school from another – such as, teaching effectiveness, faculty scholarship, faculty accessibility to students, diversity within the student population, physical facilities, location, cost, student satisfaction, etc. Of course many of these important distinguishing factors are not easily measured, especially for comparative purposes, and that is why no ranking system has received official sanction.

Nevertheless, we cannot and do not ignore the reality that those who are unfamiliar with law schools and legal education consult the rankings. Therefore, we have been studying the US News methodology to ascertain why our position changed so dramatically, particularly in a year when our ranking in the most heavily-weighted category (the peer assessment survey) improved. We have determined that part of the reason is the result of relatively small changes in categories where differences among schools are small. For example, a decline of less than a dozen graduates reporting employment nine months after graduation constituted a drop of 44 places in that category of the rankings.

Our conversation with the director of data research at US News also revealed that the “faculty resources” component of the survey contributed significantly to the ranking change. In this area, the magazine calculates a figure based on a three-year average of certain expenditures measured against the size of each school’s enrollment. A review of past records indicates that, in 2002, our report to US News contained data on the size of our entering class rather than the size of our entire student body. Because our position in the second tier did not change, this error was not caught either by us or by the magazine. (At that time, US News did not attempt to calculate individual school rankings beyond 50.)

The following year, US News began to rank schools from 50-100. Although nobody directly consulted past data, our “faculty resources” rank for that year (and the next year) included the 2002 numbers as part of the three-year average. This year, the 2002 data was no longer part of that average. This led to a significant decline in our “faculty resources” rank and had a major impact on our overall standing in the survey.

We will continue to review the US News methodology to ensure that our school is accurately portrayed. In addition, several of us in the law school administration will attend a national symposium next week on the future of the law school ranking system. But, in the end, we will not allow ratings produced by a commercial publication to dictate the future of our law school. Our mission is to provide a high-quality legal education and to train future leaders throughout the state, the nation, and the world. This means that we will strive to enroll strong students based on an array of factors. We will work to recruit energetic faculty to teach those students. And we will continue to open doors for graduates when they leave our halls.

I am immensely proud of our law school. We have a wonderful program filled with highly-talented people. No magazine survey can change that or the upward direction in which we are traveling.

Finally, I would like to invite any of you who would like more specific information about the ranking system (or any other topic of concern to the future of the law school) to attend an open forum for students with members of the administration on Monday, April 25th in the Moot Court Room from 12:00-1:00 and 4:30-5:30.

Susanah Mead
Interim Dean Designate and Professor of Law

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