Our US News score is lousy. The methodology is very bad — and any large private school without a very big endowment is going to suffer under it — but even so I think fails to reflect some of our real strengths when I look at who is doing relatively well out of the system.
Brian Leiter says, and who am I to gainsay him?, that many, many schools “massage” the data they report to US News,
Schools hire unemployed graduates as research assistants, hand out fee waivers to hopeless applicants to improve their acceptance rates, inflate their expenditures data through creative accounting or simply fabrication, cut their first-year enrollment (to boost their medians) while increasing the number of transfers (to make up the lost revenue), and so on. Because more than half the total score in U.S. News depends on manipulable data, schools intent on securing the public relations benefits of a higher rank simply “cook the books” or manipulate the numbers to secure a more favorable U.S. News outcome.
I'm 99.9% sure that this law school does exactly none of those things. I think our administration is honestly reporting its stats — honest to a fault, some might say.
Indeed, I know of a case where we have a person (not the Librarian) who doesn't have tenure, who has a joint faculty and library job, carries two titles, but has been spending increasing amounts of his/her time teaching students, coaching moot court teams, doing all the things great faculty members do. Why not count this person towards our faculty for student/faculty ratio purposes, I asked? Wouldn't be right given how the rules treat library staff, came back the answer.
There are two related issues here: The first is to what extent one can ethically lawyer the numbers to one's advantage. Not being involved in those decisions, I have no idea where the line is, nor what the tradeoffs are on pushing it. There's no question some schools went a lot too far, and paid for it in embarrassment when they got caught.
The second issue is what, if Leiter's claim is correct, it means for law schools that don't engage in any of the shenanigans he describes. On the one hand, I'm quite proud to be able to say that we are not cheating. On the other hand there's always Leo Durocher's warning to contend with, that “Nice guys finish last.”