DU named second beautiful campus, students defend ranking

By Jocelyn Cano

September 18, 2013

On any given day, Dominican students can walk across campus and hear others remark on how beautiful the campus is. But now that Dominican is apparently the number two most beautiful campus in the nation, will the school receive more publicity than ever? Not necessarily.

Ranker.com, a website which allows anyone on the Internet to create and distribute a survey, recently named Dominican as the second most beautiful campus in the country behind St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

The high rank came about this summer, when Dominican posted the results on their Facebook page and website. However, legitimacy around this rank has been questioned, as rankings were majorly based upon DU students reposting the website’s survey link to their profiles and asking friends to vote yes on Ranker.com.

“I feel as if the beauty of a campus is more subjective, so basing a ranking off of public opinion in this case does not necessarily invalidate the report,” senior Drew Adducci said.

Two other surveys also emerged this summer, ranking Dominican as a top university in both the Midwest and as a Catholic institution.

US News & World Report, a recognized leader in college rankings, ranked Dominican as the number 13 Midwest college out of 108 schools. The blog Bestcolleges.com ranked Dominican among the top 10 Catholic universities in the nation.

US News & World Report based their rankings on average freshman retention rate, graduation rate, percentage of classes under 20 students, and SAT/ACT scores among others. BestColleges.com claims schools are ranked based on acceptance rate, enrollment, test scores, and surveys. However, BestColleges.com’s list does not include prestigious Catholic institutions including Georgetown or Notre Dame, making the rankings appear inaccurate.

“We were included in a group of relatively small Catholic colleges and universities,” Director of Public Information Jessica Mackinnon said in regards to BestColleges.com. “Perhaps this is because one of the qualities measured is small class sizes or the opportunities that students have to develop close relationships with their professors.”

In recent years, several media outlets have criticized US News & World Report for having skewed reviews based on pure enrollment numbers as opposed to student success rates along with inaccurate and outdated data sets.

“I think there is a need to find out what type of information and data US News & World Report uses to create rankings,” Adducci added. “Are they basing their ranking on strictly statistics, or are they using student and staff input and feedback as well?”

Senior Mary Kate Mann believes that while US News & World report appears to be more legitimate of a source, the Rankings.com and BestColleges.com ranks do hold some merit.

“Many students who go to those colleges were probably more likely to stumble upon Ranker.com since it was on Facebook and probably check Facebook more regularly,” she said. “I didn’t even know US News & World Report was doing a report but I knew what Ranker.com was and I participated in that. Since US News & World Report is apparently known to be a bit biased, I don’t know how much I would trust it.”

“If it were up to me, Dominican would exceed all the ratings,” senior Jamie Visser said. “But, obviously that is part of the point. These ratings are subjective. They are based on different people’s opinions. In a sense, I don’t know that you can remove those biases or experiences from the ratings.”

Mackinnon commented that Dominican receives consistent publicity from the US News & World Report among others that rank Dominican as a top Midwest university.

“We’re proud of how consistently well we do,” she said. “We have been included in the top 20 Midwest schools for the past 15 years. Dominican University was ranked number 13 of all master’s level regional universities in the Midwest. This is exceptional because we increased our ranking from number 16 last year.”

Mackinnon recognizes that placing merit solely on these rankings is not Dominican’s ultimate goal, but acknowledges they give the Dominican community something to celebrate and be proud of.

“I think that most of us who have been affiliated with Dominican for any length of time, whether as students or employees, realize that Dominican is a special place,” she explained. “We take seriously our relationship-centered mission and our commitment to help students achieve their goals.”

“I think that all of the rankings need to be taken with a grain of salt,” senior Lisa Gullo said. “I think that depending on how the rating was calculated is how reliable it is. The one based off likes was too biased because it’s only based off of the subset of people who are actively online and eliminates everyone else. In all, I don’t think the ratings are completely reliable because there are too many factors.”