Two people recently and independently told me that they had received USN&WR reputational surveys even though they do not fit any of the criteria—law school dean, dean of academic affairs, etc.—that USN&WR has published. Both people work at law schools. One of my informants told me that he/she got the forms both at his/her present employer and at a law school she worked at earlier. My other informant told me that he/she knows of a similarly situated person who likewise got an apparently unauthorized USN&WR reputation survey. Both informants asked that I not identify them—hence my coy phrasing—but their claims strike me as completely credible.
Those few anecdotes do not, of course, establish how often USN&WR sends reputation surveys to people other than those it (says it) intends to poll. Notably, however, the reports I've received came to me unbidden, simply because I have a reputation as a rankings geek. Query how many more such cases a comprehensive investigation would uncover; a lot, I'd guess.
Query, too, whether USN&WR really means to send surveys to people such as those who contacted me. Perhaps it has a "secret list" of reputation survey recipients, people whose opinions it holds in high regard but whom it wants to safeguard from the taint of law school public relations campaigns designed to influence USN&WR voters. Yet another caveat: Perhaps USN&WR manages to screen out reputation surveys that get filled out and returned by unqualified parties.
We thus have, as yet, no solid proof that voter fraud materially affects the way that USN&WR ranks law schools. We do, however, have reason to wonder whether the most important part of USN&WR's rankings really works as advertised.
[Crossposted at Agoraphilia, MoneyLaw, and College Life O.C.]
Labels: U.S. News