Flames of the Torch

What makes a university great? Is it high academic standards? Good food? An attractive campus? According to the Princeton Review, all of these factors, along with many more, are taken into account when ranking schools as the best in the nation.

St. John’s University was recently named one of the top 361 universities in the nation, and one of the top 222 universities in the Northeast. The Princeton Review does not hierarchically rank the universities, avoiding giving any school a definitive number in the ranking, but the inclusion is nonetheless an honor.

Yet along with the high honors of being named one of the best universities in the United States, St. John’s also received some unsavory honors as well. The University was the No. 10 school on the Professors Make Themselves Scarce list and No. 7 on the list of schools with the Least Happy Students.

Surely a school with inaccessible professors and unhappy students cannot be one of the best in the nation. While happy students and available professors are not the only things that make a university great, they are most certainly important contributing factors.

According to the Princeton Review, rankings are based primarily on student surveys. The group distributes 115,000 surveys, with approximately 300 surveys going to each campus ranked. With more than 20,000 students at St. John’s, that amounts to just 1.5 percent of the population.

Such a minute portion of the student body is deciding that professors are difficult to get in touch with and that students are unhappy? While the margin of error is only 3.62 points, a respectable figure, it still only represents 1.5 percent of the population. The ranking of the University should not be based on the opinions of a minority group.

At every university there are professors who are unreachable. In fact, most students have probably been forced to suffer through a class with a professor who was hard to track down or difficult to work with. But does that mean a majority of the professors are unresponsive? Certainly not. And of course students are unhappy at St. John’s. Students are unhappy everywhere. It is why transfer applications exist. But just because a handful of students decides to transfer, does that mean the majority of the students are unhappy? Absolutely not.

The negative rankings take away from the positives, namely that St. John’s is one of the best universities in the country.

While it may not always seem like the greatest school to students, there is something to be said for all of the positive rankings it has received, such as being the No. 7 Unwired Campus according to Intel and the recent Princeton Review ranking.

So what do we learn from all of these rankings, some of which contradict others? That they are based on poor samples by people detached from the university who have little understanding of the everyday operations of St. John’s.

In short, these rankings add up to nothing.