We Win! (Again)

A pentapeat.

For the fifth straight year, Harvard was declared the best college in America by U.S. News and World Report. Checking in with an overall score of 100.0, fair Harvard rolled over the competition again to return home to its spot atop the annual college ranking.

As Dartmouth's academic rating plunges into the teens, Stanford's alumni become increasingly dissatisfied, and the pockets of former Columbia Lions grow shallow, it is comforting to still see John Harvard sitting astride the narrow data like a colossus.

On a more somber note, Cornell, which sank to an overall rating of 15, has been officially kicked out of the Ivy League. The vacancy will be filled by MIT, this year's #4. They are expected to raise both math SATs and football win percentages throughout the Ancient Eight.

There are glitches to be sure. Apparently, our "financial resources" fell to a rank of seven, though Harvard still has the largest endowment on the planet. The winner in this category was the California Institute of Technology. Call it Revenge of the New Math.

And student for student we are being outspent, most notably by our younger sister in New Haven. The average Eli receives 3, 167 more worth of goods and services from his college than you or 1. That's a lot of Kevlar and tasers.

Harvard News and Public Affairs director Joe Wrinn speaks softly, the glossy issue persumably rolled into a big stick behind his back. "The quality of Harvard speaks for itself. We don't wish to comment on any specific survey."

Princeton has conceded, with Press Officer Jackie Savani saying, "Harvard may be the best school in the country, but it is obviously not the best school for every individual." True. This is why people have to apply rather than just showing up en masse in the Yard every autumn.

Yale was somewhat more reticent, as Director of Public Affairs Gary Fryer said the academic community takes the survey "with a grain of salt, and a rather large grain at that." Humble pie apparently must be seasoned to individual institutional tastes.

The article even includes some commonly asked questions about the survey. The final query is a good one, "Why aren't schools ranked according to what students learn in college?"

The editors sadly respond, "Unfortunately, no one has yet developed a reliable and practical system of measuring outcomes. But if and when such indicators of what students learn are devised, they will be made part of our ranking methodology." Evidently, the system for editing out inane questions could use some repair as well.

But we won. We feared rioting at Out of Town News, we hoped to carry president Rudenstine in his annual "Victory Lap" around the Yard, we dreamed of waving huge crimson #1 foam hands at the massive rally at the stadium. Yet the spires of the campus were quiet. Why, in the face of glowing histograms and the only national championship Harvard could ever hope to win off the ice, is the campus so calm?

It's lonely at the top.