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Higher Education Watch
A College Ranking That Matters

The media is awash with college prestige rankings, with publications from Forbes to Business Insider to the Wall Street Journal all seeking to cut into U.S. News and World Report’s market share among upper-middle class high school students and their parents.

Heterodox Academy, the new organization led by Jonathan Haidt dedicated to increasing the range of viewpoints represented in academia, has done something a little bit different. Instead of offering students a list of which colleges confer the highest levels of  status in elite social circles, it has created a ranking of colleges based on their commitment to principles of ideological openness and academic freedom.

The ranking methodology includes four criteria: Whether a school has endorsed the University of Chicago’s principles on free expression; how the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has assessed a school’s speech codes; the Intercollegiate Studies Institute rankings of colleges’ attitude towards students whose views fall outside of the left-liberal campus norm; and notable events that have taken place on campuses since the latest round of anti-liberal activism was set in motion in 2014.

The “top” colleges on the list include the University of Chicago, Purdue University and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The lower end of the list includes the University of Missouri, the University of Oregon, Brown, and Harvard.

The rankings could change in the coming months as Heterodox Academy adds new metrics, including a metric of the degree of ideological diversity among the faculty and student body. (The site has previously published some preliminary data on this question).

At a time when the political views represented in higher education are growing more monolithic, the rankings might encourage open-minded students and faculty to form outposts at colleges that champion a competitive knowledge-creation process rather than an ideological agenda—or, to use Haidt’s terminology, colleges that make the pursuit of truth, rather than social justice, their overriding priority.

Some things are more important to a university’s mission than SAT scores and admissions rates.

This post has been edited for clarity.

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  • TGates

    The University of Virginia ??? are you kidding me? It has long be called the center of the Peoples Republic of Charlottesville. Has no one followed the School’s actions in the Fraternity rape hoax or the recent Adjunct forced to step down over a relatively mild Twitter? If UVA is one of the most open, I cringe for the Republic. Have you looked at its FIRE rating?

  • Tom

    They should throw in another category for the ranking–how many of their graduates are employed and how quickly they repay their student loans.

    • Venkat Rao Dasari

      Several rankings already do that for engineering and sciences

  • William Voegeli

    “And the four that fare the worst: University of Missouri, University of Oregon, Brown, Harvard and Northwestern.” Five.

  • Proud Skeptic

    I went to Penn State back in the 70’s and graduated with an engineering degree. Tuition, room and board (out of state) started around $3500 and rose to $5000 by my senior year. Many of my friends studied disciplines that led to careers. The degree provided them with the skills to begin a career in their chosen field. Then, there were the kids who studied those vague disciplines…For the most part they graduated almost as uneducated as when they showed up the first day of their freshman year. They couldn’t write very well. Their verbal skills were still poor. Math still scared them. They still knew nothing of the arts or literature. History was a vague, hazy thing.

    One wonders what the purpose was of spending even the small amount of money it cost back then if this was going to be the end result. Sure, they could say, “I went to college”. But it meant nothing in real terms. And this was before the invention of Black and Gender Studies and all of the other empty, vacuous subjects that exist in today’s college environment. That was before safe spaces and all of the hot house orchid pathologies that exist in today’s college environment.

    With the high cost of college today, one has to wonder what sense it makes to even go unless you have a specific set of skills you are setting out to master. Colleges these days have a very basic task ahead of them. They need to re-establish that they provide a product that is worth the money.

    • FriendlyGoat

      The right answer for gender, racial and other social studies is for the rudimentary facts and trends about those to be published by Cosmopolitan, The National Enquirer, and all the other checkout stand books and publications. Then everyone could read them for cheap and become adequately educated on those topics without spending college-caliber money. Think it’ll work? I’m sorta kidding and sorta not. Most people are under-educated on these matters—-BUT—-the ones studying them in college are “oversold” on the marketability of what they paid a lot to get.

      As for practical education, congrats on your engineering degree. Many people (like probably me) are not capable of that. I did an accounting degree in the early seventies and that worked out well for me in those times, as well.

      • Proud Skeptic

        An accounting degree is exactly like an engineering degree in that it teaches a set of skills and a certain discipline. That is a good expenditure of money.
        I am referring to those who:
        1. Never really wanted to get educated…to learn to write, to appreciate art and literature, etc. That is a lot of money to spend on nothing.
        2. Run off and get degrees that have zero value.
        Actually, there is a third category…those careers that really don’t require a college degree. One very good example is to be a nurse. Once upon a time nurses used to graduate from nursing school (like my sister in law did). It was a successful program. Then, thirty years ago, they decided it needed to be a four year bachelor’s degree. I doubt anything was gained by that.

        • FriendlyGoat

          I would be okay with nurses who are not forced to take much art and literature—–if that’s what you’re saying. Is it?

          • Proud Skeptic

            Hi, Goat!
            I am saying exactly what I said…you can tailor a nursing program to meet the needs of nursing students and teach them what they need to know for about half the cost and they will be effective nurses even if they never learn to appreciate art or understand history.
            Personally, I enjoy having a background in the arts and literature…something I got from my mother, not from college (there are few opportunities in an engineering curriculum for such things). I think is rounds you out. But most people just aren’t interested. Period. Why put them in a position where they have to pay for something that goes in one ear and out the other?
            Occasionally I look up people I knew in college on the Internet. A month ago, I ran across one who probably studied sociology or something. He has spent the last few decades teaching gun safety. I can tell you right now, he never showed any interest in courses for the four years I knew him.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I was grateful my accounting degree was not littered with too many requirements for extraneous material. Shakespeare is cool but you don’t need him to design a bridge and I didn’t need him to be a controller in a private-sector company. As far as I know, nurses don’t need him either in order to take care of a patient in any medical setting.

    • LarryD

      I believe the arts and humanities subjects have been gutted for basically two reasons:

      1. The Left hates Western Civilization, obliterating it’s cultural history and heritage goes towards destroying it.

      2. The Left wanted sinecure positions, where they would be safe from actually having to demonstrate any competency, and safe from the draft (remember, this process started back during the Vietnam War).

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