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Prove ranking wrong

Sam Davis | Friday, August 27, 2004

Rankings carry great weight at a school like Notre Dame. Students, administrators and faculty are rightfully proud of the University’s consistent status as a top school in academics, sports, spirituality and other distinctions that make the school famous.

Now we’re No. 1 – again – as the most homophobic university in America, as thousands of high school seniors will learn when they scour the Princeton Review rankings in search of the perfect college fit. But how much stock should they, and the University, place in the Review’s choice?

Of course, these seniors also know that Notre Dame is one of the premier Catholic universities in the country, where many students follow the Church’s teachings to the letter of the law. But that Catholic identity should never give the impression that the University actively discriminates against any individuals – regardless of what doctrine says about their sexual orientation – who choose to enter the Notre Dame community.

It is clear the Notre Dame student body doesn’t want to be on the most homophobic list, much less atop it. Last year, the “Gay? Fine By Me” campaign blanketed campus on two separate occasions, when nearly 2,000 people donned the bright orange shirts.

While this kind of demonstration is intended to prove the Review’s rankings are inaccurate, it cannot affect change when the evaluation procedure itself is skewed.

To compile its homophobic rankings, the Review simply asked 300 students at random to agree or disagree with one statement: “Students, faculty and administrators treat all persons equally regardless of sexual orientation.” The answers, based on a one-to-five sliding scale, were then compiled and posted in the publication.

The Princeton Review’s generalizations about colleges across the country based on such an unreliable method of research are simply irresponsible. To stereotype any school for any issue – from the biggest party school to the worst food to the most homophobic – on such limited questioning is unfair.

But this does not excuse the fact that Notre Dame is still on the list. Rather, it should remind students that prejudice against homosexuals is still a very real issue on this campus. Even though the survey sought opinions from a very small constituent of Notre Dame students, the results have teeth. Three hundred students who perceive such a large problem on this campus are 300 too many.

The student body should take offense at how outsiders – especially those thousands of high school seniors – perceive its attitudes. The Princeton Review’s assessment of Notre Dame should motivate all students, faculty and administrators to act in a manner fair to all individuals, regardless of differences in race, gender or sexual orientation. Changing just 300 minds could change far more.