It's our party, and we can cry if we want to, but not about a ranking


When a tabloid reports a scandalous story, one that may or may not be based on fact, it receives some attention, but is then understood to be just that: a tabloid story.

Similarly, when the Princeton Review ranks colleges and universities each year in its "Best 378 Colleges: 2014 Edition" (or any year's edition, really) there may be a scandalous story or two meant to entice readers, for instance the "top party school" rankings.

The book receives some attention for its well-known rankings, but it is to be understood for what it is: an obscure judgment of what "best" or "top" mean in a series of categories.

No doubt there have been mixed reactions to DePauw's recent #13 "party school" ranking. We've seen social media abuzz with pride from students and alumni as well as disappointment from students, alumni and administrators.
In the midst of a seven-year capital campaign in which the University is seeking funding for various projects, the University's 175th anniversary celebration and as a class of first-year students prepare to make their way to Greencastle, the ranking may not be a welcome review of a university that prides itself as being more than a top 20 "party school." And for that reason we empathize with Vice President of Student Life Cindy Babington and Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Steve Setchell.
Many of the statements made in "An Open Letter Regarding the Princeton Review's 'Party' Rankings" make sense to us. Sure, this ranking can be seen as "a disservice" to the university. Yes, "these rankings shape perceptions about DePauw." True, the Princeton Review is less than transparent about its process.
It is frustrating to see the DePauw's reputation tarnished by a less-than-credible source. But attacking the messenger in an open letter or e-mail does not seem like an appropriate response.
We understand the desire to defend and protect our university. We support having these conversations about what the ranking means in our own circles or when the question comes up. But why write the letter? For those who know DePauw and for those who can discern a reliable news article from an unreliable one, the ranking loses its weight.
The university should have learned from years past that reacting to these rankings brings DePauw into the public eye to an even greater extent. While administrators could have acknowledged the ranking as unfavorable and moved on, instead a letter was drafted, sent and picked up Monday by The Huffington Post, msnNOW, Total Sorority Move, BarstoolU and other websites.
Prospective students would no doubt have seen the ranking without these headlines. Students would have found them. Alumni may have stumbled upon these rankings as well.
But now that this letter has been picked up by multiple sources, a ranking that could have been forgotten by now has attained new life. And the DePauw community is dealing with a stronger aftershock of media reaction as a result.
By now this particular tabloid story of sorts might not have appeared when an individual searched online for DePauw. Instead it is the top news story when anyone searches news for DePauw.
And just like that, the reaction to the tabloid story fuels another tabloid story.