Collegian unfair to CSU

Sep 032007
Authors: Daniel GibsonReinemer

Just two weeks into the academic year, the Collegian has already criticized the CSU administration three times. In each case, the administration has acted appropriately and received unfair criticism.

Most recently, a house editorial in the Collegian suggested the university had deceived students in a press release by inflating our ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings.

CSU did nothing wrong in reporting the results and owes no apology to students.

The alleged controversy stems from an Aug. 17 press release in which the university clearly explained the ranking. Available online in the archives at, the press release states, “U.S. News and World Report listed Colorado State in the top tier of public and private doctoral universities and 62nd among public universities.” It goes on to list other public schools close to CSU in the rankings.

While CSU is ranked 124th in the top tier of national universities, it is ranked 62nd among public universities. This is not manipulation, as the editorial claimed, but honest and accurate reporting of U.S. News’ own evaluation.

The distinction between public and private doctoral universities is one the magazine creates, reflecting the inherent differences between such institutions. In the print edition of the college rankings, the top 50 public doctoral universities follows the more comprehensive list of the top public and private schools of that level.

Just as it separates liberal arts colleges, universities granting doctorates, universities granting master’s degrees and colleges focusing on undergraduate education outside of the liberal arts, public and private colleges are not similar and thus treated differently.

In other words, there is no absolute rank of a college. All ranks are relative to a group of similar schools.

In that sense, it’s as equally dishonest to call CSU the 62nd-ranked college as it is to call it the 124th-ranked college; both numbers fail to compare CSU to, say, a suite of master’s level colleges.

Further, the university’s press release was clear to state CSU was ranked 62nd in relation to other public schools. By providing a list of similarly ranked public schools, it reinforced this point and provided potential applicants with a fair group of schools to compare to CSU.

On the first day of school, the university was panned in another house editorial for spending money on what’s known as “social norms marketing.” This approach uses ads and other forms of marketing to help change skewed perceptions about typical peer behavior, or social norms.

The university’s plan was criticized for being “silly,” but peer-reviewed research suggests this approach can be effective.

Social norms marketing has skeptics, including research from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study published in 2003. But a number of more recent journal articles, including a recent review in the Journal of American College Health, suggest it can be effective in reducing student alcohol consumption.

Students have a right to know the administration is trying to reduce alcohol-related tragedies with an approach that has withstood intense scrutiny.

Finally, CSU was criticized for dorm overcrowding, which led to 29 students living in temporary housing until the middle of the first week of classes.

This is also unfair, given the problem of predicting how many incoming students will accept admission offers. With nearly four thousand new freshmen, CSU has done well to find them homes as quickly as they did.

Newspapers and journalists have an important role to play in keeping public institutions honest, and I strongly support well-balanced critiques of public policy. However, recent editorials in the Collegian have been unfair to the university and verge on being malicious.

As the semester continues, I hope to see fair and reasoned treatment of the CSU administration. It makes this editorial page more respected while providing the university, students and the surrounding community the coverage they deserve.

Daniel Gibson-Reinemer is a fishery and wildlife biology graduate student. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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