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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Notre Dame's Post-Hoc Rationalization of Jenkins' Comments

The Heights today has an excellent story regarding the fallout from recent comments made by Fr. Jenkins, the new President of the University of Notre Dame.

According to a Notre Dame spokesman, Fr. Jenkins said that, of the leading universities (as defined by the top 20 schools listed in the US News and World Report's "Best Colleges" rankings), Notre Dame is the only one with religious character. So, my original reading of the quote, which concluded that Fr. Jenkins did not even consider Boston College to be a "leading" university, seems to have been fair after all.

The Heights reports:
Part of Jenkins' recorded conversation with reporter Jodi Cohen was inaudible, which is why ellipses separate a portion of his statement, Storin continued. He said Jenkins wasn't sure if it was during that time that he specified he was talking about U.S. News' top 20 schools.
Fr. Jenkins reportedly telephoned Boston College President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. to apologize for the "confusion" and "for any inconvenience" that his comments may have caused. According to The Heights, Fr. Leahy accepted the Jenkins' apology and considers the matter closed.

The explanation offered by Notre Dame regarding Fr. Jenkins' comments is ridiculous.
Since when did "20" on the US News rankings become the cut-off for a leading university? It seems awfully convenient that Fr. Jenkins settled on "20" as the benchmark; ND is currently ranked #18, and Georgetown #23. And it is even more convenient that key portions of the interview are inaudible.

According to data compiled by The Center, a Gainesville, FL "research enterprise focused on the competitive national context for major research universities,"
Notre Dame is only celebrating its 10th year as a "leading university," as the school did not rank among the Top 20 schools prior to 1995. (Data here in XLS). And since then, it has been teetering on the brink.

Using the Jenkins Test, Georgetown University had a brief brush with the esteemed group of leading univiersities in 1999, when it was ranked #19 by the magazine.

Clearly, this is ridiculous. Notre Dame is a leading institution today and was prior to 1995 (even if Fr. Jenkins does not agree). So is Georgetown, and so has Georgetown been for many, many years. And, so too is Boston College.
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Comments on "Notre Dame's Post-Hoc Rationalization of Jenkins' Comments"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9/29/2005 01:01:00 PM) : 

Amen ... Jenkins / Storin are clearly backpeddling. Frankly I don't think this was an accident. Jenkins was making a calculated statement he probably thought would appeal to Notre Dame alumni who enjoy being reminded that regardless of selectivity, prestige or (God forbid) recent gridiron results, Notre Dame is ranked higher according to US News (the worldwide leader in higher education).


Blogger BC Eagle said ... (9/29/2005 01:15:00 PM) : 

Good point. Make $21M for ND Law then make disparaging remarks about BC and GU - it's all in a days work. His mistake was smugly adding "with all respects to our friends at Boston College and Georgetown" because it was snagged by my Google News alert.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9/29/2005 01:56:00 PM) : 

Google News , LexisNexis (and now this blog) are my downfall ... I wonder how we would procrastinate without the internet??

Also, I didn't get the $21M ref?

Jenkins certainly has not made a good first impression--and I don't just mean on the Heights ... I've gotten a couple e-mails from friends at other schools who took note of the jibe. I suspect higher-ups have taken note as well. Talking down about your competition is a tactic that university presidents best avoid since it ends up reflecting poorly on their own institution. Hopefully this will set off a few alarms the next time US News' does its ranking.


Blogger BC Eagle said ... (9/29/2005 02:23:00 PM) : 

From the Chicago Tribune article (I've been linking to the story at GrandForksHerald.com): "On the first day of his presidency, Jenkins secured a $21 million donation for the law school."


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9/29/2005 03:47:00 PM) : 

Seems to me the best way to settle this kind of controversy is to get ourselves consistently ranked in the top 20 ... We may all be convinced that BC is better than Notre Dame for all sorts of reasons but until that judgement is "objectively" determined by US News, the point is moot. Today's Heights has a good Op-Ed by the Nunziato brothers about the importance of a "Division I" Arts program to compliment our Division I Athletics. Once we start winning Rhodes scholars as often as Bowl Games, silly comments by novice college presidents will fall on deaf ears.


Blogger BC Eagle said ... (9/29/2005 03:59:00 PM) : 

I think it is worthwhile to work on increasing our ranking by targeting some "trouble areas" - mainly the ones discussed in my earlier post about the "New" BC (and the forthcoming Master Plan). Specifically, BC needs $$$. The $400M Ever to Excel campaign was great. But Notre Dame aims for $1B, and then exceeds expectations. That said (and at the risk of turning this into a trite debate about the US News criteria), a ranking of schools in 2005 that lists UPenn a full 3 slots ahead of the MIT is, IMHO, bunk.


Anonymous AHL said ... (9/29/2005 06:39:00 PM) : 

Agreed. BC needs to increase alumni giving and, with that, the endowement.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9/29/2005 11:38:00 PM) : 

On that note, today's Harvard Crimson is reportaing that Heightswoman Jennifer A. Pline (her year of graduation is not mentioned, though it says she received both her AB and MBA from BC) has been appointed as VP of Trusts of the Harvard Management Company, the group that oversees Harvard's $22+billion endowment. Given the success the BC-of-Cambridge has had in multiplying the size of its endowmwnt over the past few years, maybe Pline can learn a few secrets and share them with the Harvard-of-Chestnut Hill.

Full article at:



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