MAKING THE COACHES' POLL. Sometimes there's more effort in quantifying what the universities are doing than in doing the universities' business.
According to the Top Research Universities in the 2005 Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index by Academic Analytics, [Northern Illinois] is ranked 17 out of the top 20 small research universities.
The people who are supposed to call attention to good news are doing their work.

While many research facilities attempt to rank universities based on various qualifications, it is difficult to rank a university based on just certain attributes, said Melanie Magara, assistant vice president for public affairs.

"This set of rankings came out of dissatisfaction of the methods of other rankings," Magara said.

Magara also said it is equally difficult to rank a university's productivity.

"How do you judge the productivity of a university?" Magara asked. "It depends on who you ask. What are you asking and who are you asking?"

Despite the difficulty in ranking a university, Magara said that 17 out of 20 of the top 20 small research universities is still an accomplishment.

"It's relative," Magara said. "We're there, as opposed to not being there. Whereas thousands of universities are not there."

The dean of the graduate school aspires, not unjustifiably, to more.

In contrast, Rathindra Bose, the vice president of research and graduate
studies, is disappointed by the ranking.

"[NIU] should be in the bigger classification, not the smaller one," Bose said.

Bose also said that NIU would rank higher if the classifications of universities were more specific.

"If you exclude the medical colleges, I think we would be in the top 100 doctoral colleges," Bose said.

Additionally, Bose said that the scope of faculty productivity should be larger.

"I can name many faculty who are highly productive, but they don't contribute to the graduate program," Bose said.

The productivity of faculty is ranked by the index based on articles and books written, as well as the amount of citations received by each faculty member contributing to a graduate program at the university.

Grrr. One of these days Northern Star editors will learn to distinguish "number" from "amount."

On a happier note, my colleagues understand opportunity costs (unlike some people who ought to know better.)

"Our scholars teach more than at other universities," Magara said.

Magara said that from the student perspective, it is important to acknowledge that studying with real professors as opposed to graduate students allows less time for professors to do research and more time for one-on-one contact between the student and professor.

The topic of discerning NIU's focus was also discussed at the Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday.

"The argument is that we are not going to be U of [Illinois, which ranked 34 out of the top 50 large research universities], we can't be research only and turn over the teaching to our graduate students. That's not us," said Daniel Kempton, associate professor of political science.

Kempton suggested a division of teaching and researching to balance both necessities.

"We can't compete with liberal arts colleges and do only teaching," Kempton said. "We are a place for both research and our students."

A place that continues to be oversubscribed.
[Northern Illinois] listed the fall semester's 10th-day enrollment at 25,313 students, the university's highest enrollment level since 1987, when it listed an enrollment of 25,455, according to the NIU Data Book.
Headquarters understands that there are limits.
[Assistant vice provost of enrollment services Brent] Gage said NIU's goal is to recruit talented students while closely watching enrollment numbers to make sure the university can provide all students with the necessary resources. Gage said consequently, the enrollment numbers may drop so NIU can continue to effectively manage resources.
Resources, by the way, that are circumscribed by the state. Our colleagues at Urbana sometimes demonstrate the mind-set that successes in DeKalb or any of the other state universities reflect poorly on them. That would not be a good mind-set if there were an excess supply of spaces in selective universities. It is particularly troubling under the current conditions of excess demand for such degrees.

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