Lots of lessons here in information responsibility and naivety.
Claremont McKenna College, a small, prestigious California school, said Monday that for the past six years, it has submitted false SAT scores to publications like U.S. News & World Report that use the data in widely followed college rankings.
In a message e-mailed to college staff members and students, Claremont McKenna’s president since 1999, Pamela B. Gann, wrote that “a senior administrator” had taken sole responsibility for falsifying the scores, admitted doing so since 2005, and resigned his post.
The lessons? First and most obviously, the senior administrator has utterly failed to live up to the principles of information responsibility.
Second, publishers of books of college rankings deserve our scorn for simplifying a highly textured phenomenon (quality of colleges and universities) into ordinal rankings.
Third, American consumers suffer from what might be called “rank frenzy.” This appears in many guises, including:
- Folks running around insisting that “We’re number one,” as if being second-best at something is a cause for shame.
- Nike advertising campaigns that suggest “You don’t win silver; you lose gold.”
- Credulous parents and students actually believing that it is better to go to the #6 school than the #7.
And finally, a happy lesson. Kudos to the president of Claremont McKenna College for getting ahead of the story, going public when the malfeasance was discovered.