Students play the numbers game

    Iíd either glumly flip through page after page of profiles of brilliant Nobel-prizewinners-to-be Harvard freshmen, or smugly breathe a sigh of relief when my SAT scores registered much higher than the average of some of the schools in the top fifty. The rankings were the brainchild of a few clever, enterprising executives over at U.S News some twenty years ago. Quite correctly, they figured college-minded adolescents and their freaking-out parents would snap up their soaped-up magazine for just one week, and forsake Newsweek or Time in favor of their third-tier newsweekly.

    As the years progressed, colleges proudly began publicizing their U.S News ranking, such as Number 49 in the Most Diverse Western Region Bachelorís Degree Liberal Arts College category, or something equally obscure. But hey, it was recognition. Harvard or Princeton didnít need to be told theyíre the best. Like in the Superlative ìMostsî section of high school yearbooks, the overshadowed colleges could relish in their less important, arguably meaningless, but equally publicized distinction.

    Nowadays, I look at the annual rankings to see how UCSD does, so I can glower in the fact that itís still higher than NYU, but secretly scorn that weíre still behind UCLA. As many nothing-better-to-do, loser-rific college students or more likely, college-bound kids (and Iím guessing, even more so, parents of these kids) laboriously pore over the issue, theyíll discover our beloved UCSD to be Number 32 in the National Doctoral Universities category.

    The ranking that the UCSD administration likes to trumpet from valley to valley, though, is Number 7 in Top Public Universities. UCSD has perennially been stuck at this position: not bad for a barely forty-year old institution but still not as nationally prestigious as our UCLA or Cal counterparts. Its safe to say that if you tell some non-California resident that you go to UCSD, they might not even know what school youíre talking about.

    If you want to play the numbers game further though, it might be of interest to note that among the top fifty schools, UCSD is one of the colleges with the lowest percentage of classes under twenty students, with one of the highest percentages of classes over fifty students, and highest student-to-faculty ratios. We are also in the deep dark abyss of alumni-giving rates (I wonít state the exact numbers as to not cheat those conniving magazine executives of their own hard-earned money).

    You wonít hear any UCSD administrator advertising any of those figures, I assure you. With somewhat credible prestige comes a disheartening numbers-based picture that UCSD has overfilled classes full of apathetic and stingy students. I never envisioned my precious school to be this way, and this is why I found these numbers to be quite surprising. Yet, the numbers also beg the question, ìWhy?î As such, how do you explain such a disparity? And more importantly, are these numbers indicative of the quality of academics and student life here at this school? The answer to the latter question is probably ìNot completely.î

    It is reasonable to discount the Ivies and other older, private colleges that have both successful students and rivers of cash flowing out of their coffers. But then look at our UC brethren: after all, UCSD is considerably smaller than UCLA but still has a higher professor-to-student ratio, and UCSD is just as if not more renown than UC Santa Barbara but has twice as little alumni giving.

    These numbers shouldnít be taken that seriously, but instead should be seen as merely one piece of evidence that the student body is both not receiving and not contributing as much as they can to this campus. In light of the recent brutal budget cuts and fee hikes, UCSDís social and academic climate is more likely to take a nosedive than to improve. Just about everyone at this school hears about the deadness of student life here; itís no surprise that the campus becomes a ghost town on weekends.

    Likewise, it also seems like UCSD is a school to attend, not invest, in. Many classes are overcrowded. Admittedly, I offer no solutions for these problems. For now, these are no small issues to be remedied instantaneously by the administration or Associated Students or any organization. Instead, students probably are better off going to office hours or participating in faculty-mentor research opportunities to offset the impersonal nature of many classes. As for alumni giving, that is probably explained by the young age of our school and unfortunate yet undeniable apathy of graduates.

    That being said, I still find UCSD to be an intensely enjoyable and beneficial institution to study at. The campus is beautiful; the faculty, however uncharismatic some professors may be, is still comparably top-notch, and the student body is laid-back yet assiduous. I suppose numbers, as unyielding and reliable as they may be, canít speak for everything or everyone.

    The U.S News rankings are kind of like Britney Spears as an actress. Intriguing, but not really to be taken seriously. And sure, those other numbers were off-putting, but like all other things in life, college is what you make it. Besides, most of us were admitted into UCSD on numbers alone, and we all have more to show for than just those.

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