George Washington University has been formally moved from the ranking as 51st among colleges to the “unranked” category by U.S. News and World Report after the University admitted that it had misreported statistics for years that inflated its standing. It is a disgraceful admission for the school and faculty are demanding more information from the Administration on who was aware (and who is accountable) for this latest academic scandal in annual reporting.
I am frankly appalled that my university would commit such act of misreporting — joining a line of discredited institutions. Despite objections from GWU, U.S. News ranker Bob Morse correctly stripped us of our standing given the belief that we may have misreported the data for years. It is hard to see how such false reporting was entirely accidental. If it were not intentional, it was grossly negligent and reckless. GWU admitted on Nov. 8 that “it had overstated the percentage of freshmen in fall 2011 who were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Instead of 78 percent, as GWU first reported for that measure, university officials said the share was actually 58 percent. That is one of many pieces of data fed into the U.S. News ratings formula.” A difference of 20 percent?
One could conclude (nay, hope) this was just a typo but this is one of the key data points for reporting. These annual reports are the focus of a large body of administrators and one of the most important submissions from the Administration annually. Worse yet, Morse believes that we may have been misreporting for over a decade. There is no reported comment from our prior GWU President Stephen Trachtenberg. However, for years our administrators were aware of schools like Emory being discredited due to their misreporting of data. Yet, our false reporting allegedly continued for years.
The false data was used in the 2013 edition of the Best Colleges rankings. The data point of the students from the top 10 percent of their high school classes counted for 6 percent in the Best Colleges rankings methodology.
I, like many of my colleagues, are absolutely furious about the disclosure. Such false reporting is an act of dishonesty that would not be tolerated in our students. The question is whether it was intentional or an example of colossal negligence. Either way, we need to investigate this matter and create a system of both transparency and accountability.
What makes me so angry is that this is a fantastic school and we have invested a huge amount in our college. Indeed, for many years, the law school was effectively bank rolling the improvement of undergraduate schools. The reason is that graduate schools tend to be “anchored” by their colleges. It is hard to break into the top ten law schools without bringing your undergraduate school into the top rankings. This scandal will now produce the erroneous belief that our ranking nationally is due to false reporting — that is the ultimate betrayal of our students and faculty and staff. The reality is that this is clearly a top 50 college and our students and faculty have never been better. If anything we were under-valued in the prior rankings. That is precisely why this is such a blow. We have a major building campaign unfolding on campus with a huge investment in hard science research as well as new dormitories and other buildings. This university has experienced an explosion growth in both our facilities and our faculty. Ironically, we will now be faced in an undervalued ranking because of our sheer stupidity in over-claiming data.
The first obligation of any university obligation is akin to the Hippocratic Oath: cause no harm to your institution. That was clearly one oath violated in this case and we will now have to act (in an already tough economic period) to regain our integrity and standing in the academic world.
The question is when do such false reports become a form of fraud. Lawsuits against misrepresentations by law school have failed including recently lawsuits against schools like Cooley. Yet, false reports are designed to secure applications based on inflated data in the single most important ranking for prospective students.
Here is statement from President Steven Knapp:
The George Washington University is committed to maintaining the highest standards of integrity and accuracy. For that reason, when we discovered an error in the high school class rank data that we had submitted to U.S. News & World Report, we reported that error both to U.S. News and to the university community. We did so without regard to any possible action that U.S. News might take as a result.
We were surprised by the decision of U.S. News to remove George Washington’s numerical ranking rather than to correct it in light of our disclosure. Data about GW is still available on the U.S. News website. We understand that our numerical ranking will appear in U.S. News next year. As I have said, we regret the error and have put safeguards in place to prevent such errors from occurring in the future.
That statement obviously does not explain how such an error could occur on such a vital annual report. This is why faculty have called for a full disclosure from the Administration.
Source: Washington Post