By SUSAN JONES
Pitt’s School of Law is joining several other schools, including Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania, in dropping out of the U.S. News and World Report’s law school rankings.
“The U.S. News ranking system is systematically flawed and harmful to both legal education and the legal profession,” said Haider Ala Hamoudi, who was named interim dean of the law school this month after Amy Wildermuth stepped down.
“Some aspects of the U.S. News rankings are inconsistent with Pitt Law’s mission and values, including our longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” Hamoudi said in a statement. “Among other things, the rankings overvalue the amount spent on legal education without regard to how those resources are used, and they place a heavy emphasis on admissions criteria, including standardized tests, in a manner that is not welcoming to students from disadvantaged communities who have been systematically and historically marginalized in our legal system. Accordingly, Pitt Law will not participate in the U.S. News survey this year.”
The trend began with Yale and Harvard law schools withdrawing from the rankings in November. Since then, more than 40 other schools have taken similar action.
Harvard and Yale, which consistently rank among the top five law schools in the country, said in separate letters, posted in November on their websites, that U.S. News used a methodology that devalued the efforts of schools like theirs to recruit poor and working-class students, provide financial aid based on need and encourage students to go into low-paid public service law after graduation, according to the New York Times.
Penn State’s interim executive vice president and provost, Justin Schwartz, said in a statement on Feb. 3 that the U.S. News ranks relied “heavily on a subjective rating submitted by law school administrators and faculty as well as attorneys and judges, the rankings are more of a popularity contest based on perceived prestige, rather than a useful tool to help prospective students make a decision about where to pursue their legal education.”
In January, U.S. News sent a letter to law school deans saying it was making “a series of modifications in this year’s rankings” based on input from more than 100 deans and representatives of law schools.
“We will rank law schools in the upcoming rankings using publicly available data that law schools annually make available as required by the American Bar Association whether or not schools respond to our annual survey,” the letter said. “For schools that do respond, we will publish more detailed profiles, enabling students to create a more comprehensive picture of their various choices. For the rankings portion, there will be some changes in how we weight certain data points, including a reduced emphasis on the peer assessment surveys of academics, lawyers and judges, and an increased weight on outcome measures.”
Law schools aren’t the only ones balking at the powerful U.S. News rankings. In January, medical schools at Harvard, Penn, Columbia and Stanford — all ranked in the top 10 — said that they would no longer provide U.S. News with data it uses to rank them.
Anantha Shekhar, Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for health sciences, said in a January article in the Washington Post that “No ranking system is perfect.” He said he has concerns, but acknowledged that rankings can spur healthy competition. “We’ll continue to submit the data for now, but we’ll have to evaluate it over time.” Pitt’s School of Medicine is ranked 14th in the U.S. News listing.
Just this week, the Rhode Island School of Design said it will withdraw from U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges undergraduate rankings, saying the controversial lists do not reflect the value of its students or academic programs, according to Higher Ed Dive.
New interim dean
Following up on the announcement last month that Amy Wildermuth had stepped down as dean of the School of Law, Provost Ann Cudd issued a statement last week that Professor Haider Ala Hamoudi will serve as interim dean.
Hamoudi came to Pitt as an assistant professor of law in 2007. He served as associate dean of research and faculty development from 2013 to 2017, before being promoted to associate dean for academic in 2017 and vice dean in 2018.
His scholarship focuses on Middle Eastern and Islamic law. He has served as the editor-in-chief of the Arab Law Quarterly since 2018. Hamoudi earned his JD from Columbia Law School and holds a BSc from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A national search for the next permanent dean will begin early in the fall 2023 semester, Cudd’s announcement said.
She also want acknowledged Wildermuth’s achievements as dean, including a record bar passage rate in 2019 and development of the MSL Online program and the creation of the school’s stackable graduate certificate programs in corporate compliance, health care compliance, human resources law, and international business law and dispute resolution.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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