This morning was our lovely departmental (Communication) faculty meeting. Most of the morning was spent making admissions and support decisions, which I always kind of enjoy. I know this is an awful thing to say, given how important the process is to our applicants, but it is a bit like catalog shopping. You’re never quite sure what you are going to get, but it is fun deciding what to order.
But another part of our meeting was spent talking about the reputational rankings recently released by the National Communication Association. I think many of us were disappointed by where we stood in the reputational rankings. Others saw it as a positive indicator that we were ranked in the top 20 in Communication Technology, Org Com, and Intercultural/International. Nonetheless, it’s hard to (in Com Tech, for example), get excited about being 16th.
The most common excuse for this ranking was that we had a much smaller faculty compared to almost everyone else on the list. Stanford, with 14 regular faculty, and Cornell, with 15, were the closest, but at 9 regular faculty, we are comparably tiny, especially considering we rank in four or five different areas. Because we are smaller, we have less of a chance to build a reputation: we have fewer publications, less funding, fewer personal contacts, and produce fewer Ph.D.s. But there is only so much we can blame on being small.
It’s a little unfortunate that such rankings exist at all. It is a bit of a shortcut for students looking for a “top 5” school and for others who are looking for a way to evaluate programs. Especially for graduate school, it really ought to be more of an issue of “fit.” Worse yet, I suspect many faculties have spent time sitting around a table trying to decide whether we should care about the ranking, and what, if anything, we should do about it.