College rankings are very much bullshit, obviously — but by far the most bullshit aspect of them is the fact that at least half of our nation's Top 10 Schools have a history of utter ineptitude at handling sexual assault. It doesn't matter how high an institution's median SAT score is: if students are getting away with rape and victims are being silenced, it shouldn't be counted as one of the best. Duh.
Fortunately, this may change soon — a group of lawmakers is pressuring U.S. News & World Report to amend its influential college ranking system to indicate which universities have come under fire for failing to adequately respond to sexual assault on campus. In an open letter published in the publication's opinion page, twelve members of the House of Representatives argued that schools should be held accountable for shirking their duties:
Institutions that fail to adequately respond to sexual violence should not receive accolades from your publication. We urge you to include violence statistics in annual Clery reports on campus crime statistics and information about institutions' efforts to prevent and respond to incidents of campus sexual assault, including whether those institutions that have been found to be in violation of Title IX provisions regarding sexual violence, when ranking colleges and universities.
This would change up the rankings a lot. Of the current Top 10 schools, at least five — Harvard, Yale, Columbia, University of Chicago, Dartmouth — have recently faced public fallout for their negligence and indifference in responding to sexual assault reports. Many of the survivors' accounts of their interactions with those administrations are infuriating and gut-wrenching; frankly, it's bizarre and rather disturbing that they'd be considered the country's best universities in light of this.
U.S. News spokeswoman Lucy Lyons told the Huffington Post that the magazine welcomes the letter and would be willing to meet with Rep. Jackie Speier, who spearheaded the proposal, which is a heartening sign (but sounds a bit like lip service). Regardless, this proposal is a wonderful way to increase accountability — by mandating that all colleges publicize their assault statistics and collecting all of those numbers in a very public forum, we can keep administrations from being intentionally opaque about the frequency of rape on campus. A caveat: many colleges already have a dubious track record of trying to discourage survivors from reporting, so it's possible that increased public scrutiny could backfire and have a silencing effect.
Image via Getty.