US News Rankings of Graduate Programs in Sociology

We’re number 1, we’re number 1!!!!! I got an email to this effect from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s sociology department upon the release of the latest ranking of graduate programs by US News.

Of course I checked it out right away and was interested to see my undergraduate alma mater — UC-Berkeley — was also ranked #1. We’re #1 too, we’re #1 too. Actually, there was a 3 way tie with Princeton joining the two “Public Ivys” at the top with equal ratings of 4.7 out of 5.

I also can’t help but note that, despite the excessive emphasis on “high status” publications (American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, and if you must go to the second tier then perhaps Social Forces) that forced me to leave back in 2004, the University of Notre Dame sociology department continues to languish in the 40s. I wonder if someone there is preparing an alternative ranking based on faculty publication rates as I type, as they have done in the past.

Although the pleading did make me uncomfortable while I was at Notre Dame, I can feel their pain since they are working so hard to be accepted in the upper echelons of the status hierarchy of the profession. (My intro soc students coincidentally read just this week an excerpt from Murray Milner’s Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids about status hiearchies among teenagers.)

To be sure, the methodology of the US News rankings is problematic. Key informants rating graduate programs on a scale of 1 to 5. I distinctly recall sitting in the office of one of the UW-Madison faculty who was sent the US News ranking form to complete. He was filling the form out as I sat there and kept saying, “I don’t know anyone there. I don’t know anyone there.” What place that is any good would not have people he knows!?
I guess in the end, even though it’s flawed, as long as it keeps UW-Madison on top, I’m good with it.


Published by David Yamane

Sociologist at Wake Forest U, student of gun culture, tennis player, racket stringer (MRT), whisk(e)y drinker, bow-tie wearer, father, husband. Not necessarily in that order.

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