For the past several decades, US News & World Report has maintained a list of the top universities and academic institutions in the country.  For as long as this list has existed, Stanford has been virtually guaranteed a spot near the top.  Last Sunday, however, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, announced that, due to a little known contractual obligation, Stanford had lost its place on the list.

The ‘little known’ obligation, outlined in §207(d)2d, states that if, this year, Columbia University finishes ahead of Stanford, USC finishes ahead of UCLA, and Republicans take control of the House but not the Senate, then, next year, Stanford would lose its spot on the list to a “non-academically qualified” (non-AQ) school. This year, for the first time in over a hundred years, all three requirements were met, triggering the contractual provision and allowing Texas Christian University (TCU) to take Stanford’s place.

In light of this unexpected turn of events, many university officials have spoken out against what many describe as a random, byzantine, and abstruse ranking procedure. University President Thomas Hennessy expressed his dissatisfaction with the new rankings: “Stanford has fought hard for its spot this year, and it’s unfair for a non-AQ school to take our spot just because of some unintelligible contractual provision.”

In response to the criticism, Zuckerman attempted to defend the controversial provision. “This isn’t about merit and it isn’t about politics. This is about fairness and diversity.  When we established our rating system, we wanted it to be open and accessible to everyone, regardless of region or reputation. As a non-AQ school, TCU has never been able to garner the national attention it deserves—this is TCU’s chance.  I understand that this may be difficult for Stanford, but that’s the way the system works. We can’t help it and, quite frankly, we don’t even understand it.”

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