It is distressing that the annual college rankings released by U.S. News and World Report once again put UT in the bottom quartile among the nation's so-called national universities.
UT was in the fourth tier last year, too, and the year before that. In fact, it sometimes seems that the university has developed a comfort level with its lowly rating. That's why UT President Daniel Johnson's seeming lack of concern is troubling. “I'm not working to raise our ranking in U.S. News & World Report,” Dr. Johnson said. “I'm working to meet the needs of the Toledo area, and I think if we do that we'll be successful.”
But perhaps he should be concerned about UT's low rank, and understand that a university that works to improve its academic standing and research is indeed meeting the needs of the community it serves, because blessings flow to a community when scholarship excels.
Say what you will about Dr. Johnson's prececessor as president, Vik Kapoor - and at the end we were as critical as anyone of his administration - he considered it a challenge and a goal to lift UT from the fourth tier all the way to the second.
He failed, but he saw it as a worthy objective to be thought of in the same category as Ohio University and Miami University, two other Ohio schools already in the second tier. Is it now UT's official policy that such a noble pursuit isn't important any more? Dr. Johnson reports to the same board of trustees that Dr. Kapoor reported to. If moving up in the rankings of national universities was a worthwhile notion when Dr. Kapoor took over late in 1998, surely it must remain so now.
Down the road in Wood County, Bowling Green State University is once again listed in the third tier of U.S. News' rankings, one level above UT but not good enough for BGSU President Sidney Ribeau, who continues to strive to make BG the “premier learning institution in Ohio.” Certainly he wants to see BG in the same category as Miami and Ohio University.
If the University of Toledo is to be this city's one national university, UT and the community must decide if it is to become Case Western Reserve or Cleveland State. Columbia or City College of New York?
It's true that a university's advancement and progress can be measured in a number of ways, and President Johnson may not regard the U.S. News rankings as the most important challenge ahead of him. He may even wish they would just go away. But the fact is that the U.S. News annual report is examined and pondered by millions of Americans - prospective faculty and staff, and of course, potential students.
So we'll hope that Dr. Johnson was not being totally dismissive of the magazine's annual rankings. The University of Toledo cannot afford complacency in the modern academic marketplace.