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Rankings: How Important Are They?


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I have lurked this forum for over a year and have never posted or created an account once, but your last few responses have prompted me to opine my mind. You, lady, are one hell of a bitch and are act

I read some of the responses to this post and laughed out loud. I wish I had enough time to blog about how ridiculous some people are in academia, but alas thesis writing and worrying about myself tak

I admire those who don't take bait. Sorry for the bait. That's probably bad form. Still, I have something to say, so here is how it went down when I approached myself with these questions at your sugg

Hey, Kamisha. No idea who it is. Sounds like some sad person with too much free time and not enough sense. I don't have any enemies in my program and my profile is really vague--in fact, the only people who know in real life that I use this are my program best friend and my fiancé. Must be just a random misogynist. 

 

Also, your classmate sounds like a jerk. I'm sorry that happened to you. How did you find out who it was?

 

This will be a mini-vent to ArthurianChaucerian that others are free to skip: 

 

Haha this person is a jerk. Given the personal nature of the message and the “claims” contained within it (my favorite of which were that I transferred to my Master’s program from community college, that I don’t own a freelance writing company, and--my very favorite--that I fake my RateMyProfessor Reviews), it was fairly obvious that it was a very bitter someone who knew me personally and was trying to alter facts about my life based in a way that would reflect badly on me. Who does that? Obviously it was someone with a hangup about my academic performance, my professional success, and my teaching experience/accolades.

 

There are a couple of those people in my program who that could be (I think, like our friend Redflight, that some people still just have problems with strong women), but the language suggested one individual in particular: one super-douche who lives a bitter existence based on the fact that they think they should be top dog in our program and can’t handle that I outperform them and outrank their both in academics and in teaching. This individual considers themselves “my competition” and has been passive aggressive to me for the last two years. I showed it to a faculty member and they agreed with my guess on who it was. Actually, they guessed it before I even could offer up a name. 

 

I can’t prove anything solid at this point about who it was, but I’m 99% certain. 

 

I was upset at first, but I honestly find it super hilarious now. Seriously, who does that?

Edited by Kamisha
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Kamisha, that is legitimately scary. I had an ex-friend post a fake RateMyProfessor review at the beginning of this year and I thought that was really out of line...I can't imagine if they tried to get back at me in other mediums. People truly have issues with strong women, that's for sure. I'm lucky to be in a program where we're all very amicable, and your post reminded me of that. 

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Redflight's not even worth voting down or reporting, as far as I'm concerned. Basically this person is either here to troll or has reached that mid-February breaking point when it becomes clear that one is not going to one's desired program.

 

To get back to the topic at hand ... which is interesting ...

 

I too often get annoyed with the "Top 20 or nothing" rhetoric on these boards. I hope that people honestly don't feel this way. There is a very big world outside of the top 10, top 30, or top 50. If you truly want to throw everything away because you didn't get into a certain caliber program, then that's kind of your loss. I saw some people in my own MA cohort take the attitude that if they didn't get into X kind of school they just weren't going. And a few made good on that promise. Years later, they work in insurance or graphic design or as stay-at-home parents. Some are perfectly happy with this decision and like the fact that they don't have to worry about the academic job market. I, however, would not have been happy throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. I would have wanted to go on to grad school regardless of the status of my program. I have enjoyed the process thus far, and the experience of writing a dissertation has been worth it, regardless of whether or not I get my desired job. Most people in academia really do not get their desired job anyway; if you think that you're going to be courted by multiple universities just because you go to a certain school, you're probably mistaken.

 

ArthurianChaucerian is absolutely right that people from lesser-ranked universities get jobs. Do you honestly think that grads from the top 12 schools in the country are the only ones getting hired? Do a little digging by looking at faculty pages outside the major flagships; you'll see PhDs from all walks of life and all types of different programs (and not just in rhet-comp). Maybe some people have a serious issue with working at a non-R1 or non-prestigious SLAC. If that's the case, then no, maybe you really shouldn't go to grad school.

 

Lastly, I think it's pretty disenchanting that people here are set on perpetuating this same tired system of prestige. It's one thing to be aware that it exists (and believe me, after watching the hiring process at my own program, I'm quite aware that it exists); it's another thing to pronounce all programs outside the top 20 as obviously unworthy of anyone's attention and incapable of producing good scholars. I mean, seriously. Is that the attitude you're going to take when a CV from the perfectly good but non-Ivy University of Maryland crosses your desk? Are you going to refuse to have the grad student from UMass-Amherst on your panel because, gee, obviously if they'd been any good then they'd have gone to Harvard? This is getting a bit ridiculous.

 

By the way, one of my best professors from my MA program went to University of Oregon. She has produced scholarship and won major awards like you wouldn't believe.

 

I’m out of up votes, but well said! 

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Kamisha, that is legitimately scary. I had an ex-friend post a fake RateMyProfessor review at the beginning of this year and I thought that was really out of line...I can't imagine if they tried to get back at me in other mediums. People truly have issues with strong women, that's for sure. I'm lucky to be in a program where we're all very amicable, and your post reminded me of that. 

 

It’s the darker side of academia, but it definitely exists. I’m glad you are in a supportive program :) Mine is too, for the most part. There are just a few stragglers who have a hard time with the fact that they don’t stand out like they’d want to. I don’t blame them; it would be hard to come from an undergrad program where you are the top dog and then recede into the background. Still, though, I don’t think it’s an excuse for slander. If I can ever trace the IP address to an exact location, said individual might be in trouble for that. 

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If I can ever trace the IP address to an exact location, said individual might be in trouble for that. 

 

I have to ask... The last couple of weeks have been very eventful for you on this forum. Some arguments about this and that, and now this account of cyberstalking and resentful coworkers... Is there any chance that you are maybe also posting as Redlight in this thread for dramatic effect because the other day someone was questioning your CV? A lot of the phrasing sounds somehow similar. I apologize if I'm wrong. It's just that I've never seen this much drama on GC. Like I say, sorry if wrong.

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I have to ask... The last couple of weeks have been very eventful for you on this forum. Some arguments about this and that, and now this account of cyberstalking and resentful coworkers... Is there any chance that you are maybe also posting as Redlight in this thread for dramatic effect because the other day someone was questioning your CV? A lot of the phrasing sounds somehow similar. I apologize if I'm wrong. It's just that I've never seen this much drama on GC. Like I say, sorry if wrong.

 

Haha wow, wasn’t expecting that. That’s a pretty huge, unfounded accusation and honestly I’m surprised on it. No, I’m not Redlight. No, I’m not creating dramatic effect for the fun of it. I’m not attacking myself for the fun of it. I’m not attacking other people on GradCafe for the fun for it. No, I’m not creating accounts only to report myself.

 

And no...I would never speak in the manner that Redlight speaks. I don’t really see where you are noting similarities in verbal structure, but that honestly concerns me a little bit that you would create such comparisons. 

 

Wow...just wow. 

Edited by Kamisha
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Holy Walter Ong, this forum got all crazy in the last 12 hours!!

 

But, to respond to the issue at hand ... 

 

None of that changes the reality that all else being equal and in general, people from the most prestigious programs have the best job prospects and enjoy a significant advantage on the academic job market.

 

YES! 

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Well let's hope all the trolling and drama are done for the application season.

What do you guys make of the discrepancies between NCR and World News rankings? Why are some schools ranked highly on one and not on the other?

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Let's just let the facts stand for themselves. Like ComeBackZinc suggests, look at the type of institution you'd like to join. See where their NEW faculty are graduating from. We can look at Maryland's recent TT hiring. Not all of us want to end up at an R1, but it's an example. Here are where the final candidates received their PhDs. 

  • African American Studies: University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard
  • Rhet/Comp: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Miami University, the Ohio State, and Maryland (she taught somewhere else for a few years before getting asked back to interview)
  • African-American Literature: Duke, Duke, and UPenn.

Thems the facts. Hate it or love it, but UMD seems to select candidates from high ranked programs. 

 

Also, I've noticed that folks have been accused of being elitist or overly cynical for constantly bringing up the job market. The reality is that the job market, adjunctification, and the changing role of Humanities are what we are talking about within our programs and our professional organizations everyday. No one here endorses the power of prestige or the horrific job market; it's just the reality of our profession. If we want to change the reality of our profession, we have to first confront it.

 

When you are visiting programs, if the department doesn't explicitly talk about how they will prepare you for the job market, ask. Ask what professionalization opportunities they offer. Ask if they hire recent PhD's as lecturers while they are on the job market. Ask if they offer funding for job interviews. Any ethical humanities PhD program should be doing these things. 

 

At the end of the day, go to a program that will make you happy, foster positive connections, motivate you to produce excellent work, and position you well for the job market. 

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Let's just let the facts stand for themselves. Like ComeBackZinc suggests, look at the type of institution you'd like to join. See where their NEW faculty are graduating from. We can look at Maryland's recent TT hiring. Not all of us want to end up at an R1, but it's an example. Here are where the final candidates received their PhDs. 

  • African American Studies: University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard
  • Rhet/Comp: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Miami University, the Ohio State, and Maryland (she taught somewhere else for a few years before getting asked back to interview)
  • African-American Literature: Duke, Duke, and UPenn.
Thems the facts. Hate it or love it, but UMD seems to select candidates from high ranked programs. 

 

Also, I've noticed that folks have been accused of being elitist or overly cynical for constantly bringing up the job market. The reality is that the job market, adjunctification, and the changing role of Humanities are what we are talking about within our programs and our professional organizations everyday. No one here endorses the power of prestige or the horrific job market; it's just the reality of our profession. If we want to change the reality of our profession, we have to first confront it.

 

When you are visiting programs, if the department doesn't explicitly talk about how they will prepare you for the job market, ask. Ask what professionalization opportunities they offer. Ask if they hire recent PhD's as lecturers while they are on the job market. Ask if they offer funding for job interviews. Any ethical humanities PhD program should be doing these things. 

 

At the end of the day, go to a program that will make you happy, foster positive connections, motivate you to produce excellent work, and position you well for the job market.

THANK YOU!

Thumbs up for Urbana-Champaign woot woot!!

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At the end of the day, go to a program that will make you happy, foster positive connections, motivate you to produce excellent work, and position you well for the job market. 

 

Just wanted to add that when I was applying, my professors really tended to emphasize the "produce excellent work" part over the rankings.  (Although, to be clear, they still thought it was important to take rank into account.)  If you want to land a position that involves research, a killer dissertation in a hot area from a top-100 school can trump a more boring one from the top 10.  

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Again, I don't think that anyone claims that people from outside of the top-tier programs never get jobs. Nor do I think anyone is saying that you should only consider top 20 programs. And yes, there are many individual professors from outside of the top programs who have gotten jobs. None of that changes the reality that all else being equal and in general, people from the most prestigious programs have the best job prospects and enjoy a significant advantage on the academic job market.

Yep.

 

It's like when people are super big sports fans and they can't believe that their team might not be as good as they think it is. Yes, I know what we all want to believe about our work being the only thing that matters. I want to believe it, too. But there's a groupthink thing here perpetuating the myth that this doesn't matter. Obviously, all things being equal, it does. 

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Yep.

 

It's like when people are super big sports fans and they can't believe that their team might not be as good as they think it is. Yes, I know what we all want to believe about our work being the only thing that matters. I want to believe it, too. But there's a groupthink thing here perpetuating the myth that this doesn't matter. Obviously, all things being equal, it does. 

 

I guess I don't understand the analogy. Huge sports franchises with boatloads of financial resources and the most to lure good coaches and talented free agents with - Yankees, Lakers, Dallas Cowboys - don't make it to their respective playoffs every year. Or win championships every year. By that logic, these teams would almost always be at or near the top every year by virtue of their clout alone, even if less wealthy teams with fewer resources had better players. That's not that case at all. 

 

Unless you're making the comparison to college athletics, in which case I think it holds more water what with the NCAA division between D1, D2, D3 schools, the BCS system for college football, the bid system for basketball, etc. etc. where a school that's undefeated in an obscure conference will in most cases go ignored in comparison to a Big 10 or SEC school with a poorer record.

 

In either case, I'm sure I thought way more into this than it warranted  :wacko:

Edited by jazzy dubois
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It’s the darker side of academia, but it definitely exists. I’m glad you are in a supportive program :) Mine is too, for the most part. There are just a few stragglers who have a hard time with the fact that they don’t stand out like they’d want to. I don’t blame them; it would be hard to come from an undergrad program where you are the top dog and then recede into the background. Still, though, I don’t think it’s an excuse for slander. If I can ever trace the IP address to an exact location, said individual might be in trouble for that.

Psssssssh i pray i DO recede into the background. I dont wanna stand out letting ppl know im truly a dunce and dont belong there lol

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Can someone explain the methodology of the NRC rankings to me? I read their FAQs but statistics goes over my head. Which rankings do you think are more trustworthy, US news or NRC? What are each of them really measuring?

 

I've never been able to figure them out, and I've tried.  But I do know that some of NRC's rankings just seem intuitively off.  USNews seem intuitively more correct.  But I'm only judging from talking to people about their experiences and perceptions with those schools.  The longer i'm in graduate school the more correct USNews seems to become. 

 

Of course rankings all have their arbitrariness to them, though.  There aren't any WTF rankings in USNews, but there are some WTF in NRC.

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^ These are questions the answers to which are readily available. See, for methodology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_National_Research_Council_rankings#Methodology for a simplified explanation.

 

Obviously, the NRC rankings are more detailed and hence more "trustworthy" than those of the USNWR. With that said, such rankings are always best taken as a general guide rather than highly precise markers. There's little difference between #2 and #4, but a lot more between #4 and #40 (to state the obvious). 

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Also, this is closely related to rankings so I thought I would mention it. I know it's a bit of an outdated term (I know they use something like "very high research institution" now), but is there a consensus about going to an R1 Ph.D institution over an R2 ("high research" blah blah blah) or other institution? There are 108 RU/VH universities and I originally assumed that they made up the top 108 "rankings", but a closer examination shows that isn't necessarily true--schools like Baylor, Boston College, Northeastern, Saint Louis, SMU, Colorado, Maryland, etc. are all ranked high in some studies but are RU/H instead of RU/VH. Does this make a difference? I know it matters when it's a university at which you're trying to get tenure, but I didn't know what significance (if any) it has at the Ph.D level. 

 

If you aren't familiar with the old Carnegie system (I wasn't until some late night reading) then this website is a good resource for you: http://www.washington.edu/tools/universities94.html

Edited by ArthurianChaucerian
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Also, this is closely related to rankings so I thought I would mention it. I know it's a bit of an outdated term (I know they use something like "very high research institution" now), but is there a consensus about going to an R1 Ph.D institution over an R2 ("high research" blah blah blah) or other institution? There are 108 RU/VH universities and I originally assumed that they made up the top 108 "rankings", but a closer examination shows that isn't necessarily true--schools like Baylor, Boston College, Northeastern, Saint Louis, SMU, Colorado, Maryland, etc. are all ranked high in some studies but are RU/H instead of RU/VH. Does this make a difference? I know it matters when it's a university at which you're trying to get tenure, but I didn't know what significance (if any) it has at the Ph.D level. 

 

If you aren't familiar with the old Carnegie system (I wasn't until some late night reading) then this website is a good resource for you: http://www.washington.edu/tools/universities94.html

I'm unfamiliar with RU/VH vs. RU/H, but Maryland and Colorado (at Boulder) are both R1's.

My impression is that R1's have more support and resources for research as an institution, and that R2's focus more on teaching undergraduates. But it's important to note that the R1 or R2 designation is based on the institution as a whole. English Departments within some R2 institutions may have department-specific resources and funding that rival those at an R1. 

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I'm unfamiliar with RU/VH vs. RU/H, but Maryland and Colorado (at Boulder) are both R1's.

My impression is that R1's have more support and resources for research as an institution, and that R2's focus more on teaching undergraduates. But it's important to note that the R1 or R2 designation is based on the institution as a whole. English Departments within some R2 institutions may have department-specific resources and funding that rival those at an R1. 

 

RU/VH and RU/H are the new criteria that is being used as R1 and R2, etc. are no longer used--RU/VH stands for "Research university/very high" and RU/H  is "research university/high". Based on that, Maryland and Colorado do not fit with these new rankings and are thus RU/H rather than RU/VH. They are the "new version" of R1 and R2. You can find that information here: http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/descriptions/basic.php

 

Also, thank you for your reply. That was my gut reaction as well re: teaching undergraduates at RU/H universities. 

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I guess I don't understand the analogy. Huge sports franchises with boatloads of financial resources and the most to lure good coaches and talented free agents with - Yankees, Lakers, Dallas Cowboys - don't make it to their respective playoffs every year. Or win championships every year. By that logic, these teams would almost always be at or near the top every year by virtue of their clout alone, even if less wealthy teams with fewer resources had better players. That's not that case at all. 

 

Unless you're making the comparison to college athletics, in which case I think it holds more water what with the NCAA division between D1, D2, D3 schools, the BCS system for college football, the bid system for basketball, etc. etc. where a school that's undefeated in an obscure conference will in most cases go ignored in comparison to a Big 10 or SEC school with a poorer record.

 

In either case, I'm sure I thought way more into this than it warranted  :wacko:

 

FWIW, Dallas Cowboys have no resource-based advantage over any other team as the NFL has a hard salary cap, making it impossible to have a higher payroll than the maximum allowed. The minimum payroll is roughly 85% of the maximum, so everybody is spending the same. The NBA has a "soft" cap which lets you overspend the salary cap only to retain your team's own players, which will make it impossible to sign other players. If you are too far above the cap due to taking advantage of this rule, you start paying enormous penalties for the overage. For instance, the Brooklyn Nets are expected to pay a $100 million penalty for a $30 million overage this year, a figure which will double in the coming years if they do not fix that.

 

The Yankees can pretty much spend as they wish and their payroll this year will be about 4x as much as the lowest team. Spending on veteran free agents in MLB is such a precarious proposition that the teams who do so often get themselves into just as much trouble as they do improve their team. They also have a "luxury tax" and it does indeed scare teams, but it is set so high that only 2-3 teams are within a stone's throw of it in a given year. 

 

I know you didn't mean for this to become a sports discussion but I couldn't help but drop some fun facts :) 

 

Can someone explain the methodology of the NRC rankings to me? I read their FAQs but statistics goes over my head. Which rankings do you think are more trustworthy, US news or NRC? What are each of them really measuring?

 

I would say that the NRC is more trustworthy but they're both complete bullshit. Rankings are completely wrongheaded in and of themselves, but NRC gives weight to things that actually matter and shuns the idea of hard rankings and instead favors confidence intervals, which makes more sense.

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