A Vanderbilt University student exposed an email sent from the school’s chancellor to the campus community after the school was ranked lower than in previous years.
Yesterday, U.S. News and World Report, the media company that publishes rankings of American universities and colleges, released its 2024 Best National Universities Rankings.
However, these rankings are different than those of previous years because ranking criteria now take into consideration social mobility and employment outcomes for alumni.
“The significant changes in this year’s methodology are part of the ongoing evolution to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them,” U.S. News CEO Eric Gertler told multiple news outlets in a statement.
The Hill reported that the biggest changes between 2023’s Best National Universities Rankings and 2024’s are the higher rankings of some public universities and lower rankings for some previously highly-ranked private universities.
Officials from one of those previously highly ranked private universities aren’t too happy: After falling in rank from #14 to #18, Vanderbilt University Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Provost C. Cybele Raver sent a strange email to the campus community about the rankings.
In a TikTok posted yesterday, a Vanderbilt University student named Jen (@vintagehappens) showed screenshots of and read from the email.
“Starting off strong by talking about how disadvantaged we are as a private research university,” Jen jokingly says in her video. “With a—what—$8 billion endowment? We are the real victims here, I hope you keep us in your prayers.”
Last year, Vanderbilt reported that its endowment was over 10 billion dollars.
“This is a literal email from the chancellor of the school name-dropping other educational institutions that have risen or fallen,” Jen says. “And implying that they either do or don’t deserve it.”
On Tuesday, Jen’s video had almost 150,000 views on TikTok.
@vintagehappens anchor down bby !! no but fr some of yall have left comments asking for an update and i love it here im having the best time #vanderbilt #vanderbiltuniversity #anchordown #lowincome #politics #college #collegelife ♬ original sound – Jen
The Daily Dot obtained a copy of Diermeier and Raver’s email, and its contents match Jen’s description.
“U.S News’ change in methodology has led to dramatic movement in the rankings overall, disadvantaging many private research universities while privileging large public institutions,” it reads. “The University of Chicago dropped from sixth to 12th. Dartmouth moved down six places. Berkeley and UCLA are now tied for 15th after placing 20th last year, and UNC advanced seven places to 22nd.”
The email also specifically addresses U.S. News and World Report’s prioritization of social mobility in its rankings.
“Measuring social mobility is an important consideration, to be sure. Vanderbilt is profoundly committed to offering access to qualified students from all backgrounds,” it reads. “But it is deeply misleading for U.S. News to commingle this policy concern with measures of education quality.”
With regard to employment opportunities for graduates, Diermeier and Raver say, “The U.S. News ranking puts no value on the career outcomes of any of our students not receiving federal aid.”
Vanderbilt student and TikToker Jen says the university leaders are “really angry over the fact that they can no longer take credit for [nepotism] babies who would be running their dad’s accounting firm regardless of what school they go to.”
The email closes with details about an upcoming webinar from the University’s Data and Strategic Analytics team, which will explain the rankings and answer questions. Jen has an idea for a different webinar, though.
“Maybe we can hold a webinar on how to successfully accommodate and attract low-income students?” she says in her TikTok.
Vanderbilt University did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.