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I got the latest issue of the Scene today, and it had a blurb on this news:

The Journal Of Blacks In Higher Education Ranks Colgate University Among Top Liberal Arts Colleges

Colgate University was ranked third by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education in a survey of the nation’s 25 top liberal arts colleges measuring success in integrating black students and faculty. The ranking appears in the publication’s winter 2002-2003 issue.

On the one hand, that's a heartening statistic. It's good to see Colgate doing well and being talked about as a top school. On the other hand, it's a bit depressing (in terms of the overall situation of blacks in American academia) if you consider how poorly Colgate's current black students thought of the school during the racial discussions last year, and consider that by this ranking most schools are worse.

The reason for the discrepancy may be the same as the reason often offered for why Colgate is actually better than the U.S. News rankings imply: the ranking methodology doesn't capture the intangibles. Looking at the actual JBHE report, I see that the rankings were entirely based on statistics like the number of blacks admitted and the black graduation rate. These are certainly important factors. But what aren't taken into account are the things that were so often cited by students as reasons Colgate isn't black-friendly: racial attitudes on campus, social group segregation, diversity of offerings like speakers and bands, etc.

The ratings may nevertheless be inadvertantly accurate, since those same factors may apply just as well to all the other schools. We should be careful not to infer an absolute ("Colgate is a good school for blacks") from a relative ("Colgate is a better school for blacks than most schools").


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