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Columbia cooks the books for a mess of pottage


Michael Thaddeus, a professor of mathematics at Columbia University, did a deep dive into the question of how Columbia had ascended from the 18th Most Wonderful and Prestigious University in America in 1988 to second place in the MWAPUIA rankings this year.

The answer it turns out is that the institution lies a whole lot about the numbers it reports to US News and & World Report, the defunct news magazine whose electronic rump continues to exist largely for the purpose of cyber-publishing idiotic rankings of America’s colleges, universities, professional programs etc.

(Read the executive summary Thaddeus provides to get the gist, if you don’t want to wade through his detailed and highly amusing if you’re into this kind of thing as much as I am full report).

Some general notes:

(1) It’s important to keep in mind that the ideological function of the US News rankings is to provide university administrators with a ready excuse for (a) spending more money this year than last, now and forever world without end; and, even more crucially, (b) their own ever-more highly paid sinecures.

(2) The whole thing is pointless beyond description: 35 years ago, Columbia was an elite school that wasn’t quite as elite as HYP. Today, Columbia is an elite school that isn’t quite as elite as HYP.

(3) Life rule: Anybody who pays any attention to ANY formal ranking of educational institutions is someone to be avoided and if possible ignored. In fact this can be generalized: being obsessed with rankings of any sort means you’re a narcissistic schmuck (See: Donald Trump, Glenn Greenwald, “Philosophy” Professors, etc).

(4) Lee Bollinger was a junior member of the tenure track faculty at the University of Michigan Law School when I was an undergraduate in Ann Arbor. His salary in 1980: $31,000

His comp in 2018 for being Columbia’s president was $4,518,999. He was the fourth-highest paid university president at the time. No doubt these numbers have since gone up, just like Columbia’s ranking. (You know how expensive the City is these days).

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