June 08, 2009
Clemson/US News Ranking Recap
Last week, a Clemson administrator, Catherine Watt, made a presentation about Clemson's obsessive focus on improving its US News rankings, which seemingly drives every aspect of Clemson's decision-making. Some of Clemson's ranking-driven decisions may not be especially controversial and may even be laudable, such efforts to manage class sizes more carefully. Other decisions are potentially controversial, such as the decision to manage admissions by SAT scores--a logical effort to improve student "quality," but potentially inconsistent with Clemson's moral obligations as a land-grant institution. And one allegation was particularly explosive--Inside Higher Ed reported:
Watt said that Clemson officials, in filling out the reputational survey form for presidents, rate "all programs other than Clemson below average," to make the university look better. "And I'm confident my president is not the only one who does that," Watt said.
Some coverage from Watt's presentation:
* A recap of Watt's presentation from Inside Higher Ed
* The Associated Press story
* Bob Morse at US News. As usual, he is in denial of how ranked institutions actually respond to US News rankings. He says: "the rankings are not meant to drive the mission or any other strategic goals that a university may be trying to attain." Fair enough, but we have decades of experience to prove that they do exactly that. When will US News internalize that message?
Morse also believes that deliberately downgraded ballots won't affect the result: "U.S. News has safeguards in place to prevent strategic voting from affecting the results. We subtract a few of the highest and lowest scores from respondents before the results are calculated in order to prevent downgrading or upgrading from altering the results." OK, fine, but this check in the system does little to improve my confidence. Let's put it this way: the US News rankings are partially based on institutions voting on their competitors--which, of course, is a natural invitation for gamed voting. Can you imagine any other circumstances where we would deem competitor votes credible?
June 01, 2009
Google Chrome--Some Comments and Requests for Help
I finally got fed up with Internet Explorer 7. The last straw was the fact that it was choking on Ajax-heavy websites. When I would have the combination of Gmail, Google Calendar and Facebook (or even a subset of these) open as windows, my computer RAM would go into a downward spiral that led to chip overheating, causing the fan to essentially run continuously. This was also destabilizing the windows, leading to at least one browser crash a day.
I decided to try Google Chrome. After all, Google owns almost every aspect of the rest of my life; why not my web browser too? I've been running Chrome for the past few days and so far it has been very stable. I have also had almost no situations of runaway chip usage due to Ajax-intensive sites. So far I'd consider the test a success.
However, Chrome also has some quirky aspects. If you have any thoughts about how to deal with these, I would welcome input.
* my biggest frustration with Chrome is that the default screen size is much smaller than my actual monitor size, causing Chrome to render most pages in microscopic type with an excess of white spaces on the page. I can fix this on an ad hoc basis by "zooming" in, although that sometimes distorts page rendering. Is there a way to permanently boost the default screen display so that every new Chrome window shows web pages larger? I have tried boosting the default font size, but that works inconsistently and often just distorts the page layout without improving readability.
* I miss certain aspects of the Google toolbar. Most obviously, I liked being able to see the PageRank of a site. Is there an easy way to view a site's PageRank in Chrome? I also like Chrome's native spellchecker, but I don't fully trust it is working all the time. Is there a way to force spellchecking on demand?
* There are some buttons in my Movable Type pages (probably Flash; maybe Java) that just don't show up. Any thoughts why? I'm assuming I'm missing some essential plug-in, but I'm not sure what it is or how to get it.
* IE has a feature that automatically tells me if a web page has an RSS feed. Is there an equivalent capability for Chrome?