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.