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October 12, 2010 1:56 PM Good Enough for Christopher Newport?

By Daniel Luzer

CNU.jpg

It looks like U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings matter a lot. One college will now rate candidates for tenure-track academic positions based on the U.S. News ranking of their undergraduate institutions. Really. According to a piece by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed:

In what may be a new (and is certainly an unintended) use of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Christopher Newport University is using them, in part, to hire faculty members. Under a policy instituted by the provost… favored candidates should meet at least one of the following criteria:
An undergraduate degree from one of the top 99 national liberal arts colleges or the top 35 national universities in the U.S. News rankings. A terminal degree from one of the 69 best national universities in the U.S. News rankings. A terminal degree from a doctoral program ranked in the top 35 percent of National Research Council rankings. Election to Phi Beta Kappa.

Now this particular strategy, while a little vulgar, is not a ridiculous. While it’s probably more important that a candidate received a terminal degree from a respected doctoral program than that he attained an undergraduate degree from “one of the the top 35 national universities in the U.S. News rankings,” hiring at many institutions takes this sort of thing into account.

Human resource practices at most companies are usually couched in language about “good schools,” however. It’s highly unusual to make a specific reference to one magazine, but still. People are interested in where job candidates went to college, in part because this says something about a candidate’s intelligence, interests, and work ethic.

What makes this particularly interesting, however, is that that Christopher Newport University—until 1977 an extension school of the College of William and Mary—is not itself “one of the top 99 national liberal arts colleges or the top 35 national universities in the U.S. News rankings.”

As far as U.S. News is concerned, Christopher Newport is a tier 2 school. That means that it’s one of the magazine’s unranked schools, listed alphabetically.

Under its new policy, therefore, Christopher Newport University intends only to hire faculty who did not attend schools like Christopher Newport University. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer