Weeks after being awarded the seventh spot in U.S. News and World Report's annual list of America's top liberal arts colleges, Bowdoin has taken a position against the controversial U.S. News list and other rankings systems.

Along with 18 other liberal arts college presidents, President Barry Mills co-signed a statement, released September 7, expressing concern over the "admissions frenzy" and "the way in which rankings can contribute to that frenzy and to a false sense that educational success or fit can be ranked in a single numerical list."

In the interest of mitigating this concern, Mills and the other college presidents said their schools would no longer advertise their positions in such rankings in any new literature. The schools also said they will make information they submit to U.S. News for ranking purposes available on their Web sites.

While acknowledging that the statement was a "valuable message to send," Mills said he was uncertain as to how effective it will be in changing how people view the rankings.

"Do I think it will convince folks? I'm not convinced of that," he stated.

"I am a little skeptical that this will add a whole lot more information to those people who are looking at colleges," he added. "But more information is better than less information."

At the center of the rankings controversy has been the reputation component?a survey that asks college presidents to rank schools based on academic reputation. In the U.S. News formula, reputation is worth a quarter of a school's overall ranking. Dozens of colleges have rebuked this methodology and refused to submit the reputational survey.

Mills said the presidents' statement was prompted in part by a concern among him and his colleagues over the "notable silence" of highly ranked colleges such as theirs on the issue. He pointed out that almost none of the statement's 18 signatories have stopped submitting the reputational survey.

This includes Bowdoin.

Vice President for Communications Scott Hood said that if colleges stopped commenting on academic reputation, the magazine's editors would likely ask high school guidance counselors and others with experience in the field instead. Therefore, continuing to fill out the surveys allows the colleges to retain "some modicum of control."

He noted that Reed College has slipped in the ratings since it quit supplying U.S. News with any information, reputational or otherwise.

"If U.S. News is going to continue [its annual rankings]?and I believe it will?it is appropriate that we fill it out," Mills said.

Despite his reservations about the "beauty contest" aspects of the rankings, Hood has an entire shelf in his office devoted to college guides, an acknowledgement of the fact that while college guides and rankings may not be perfect, they are nonetheless unavoidable.

"Our culture loves rankings, in sports, movies with the biggest box office draw, front-runner for president," said Hood.

Nathan Elliott '09 said that he found rankings useful in his college search process. He said Bowdoin's decision to make the raw data it submits to U.S. News separately available on the Web site is a good idea.

"It's good for transparency," he said.

But both Elliott and Lindsay McNamara '09 have a harder time understanding the benefit of not mentioning rankings in College publications.

"I'm not really sure why you would do that," said McNamara. "People really care about where they are going and the name and number associated with it. It can be a good selling point if you are in the top ten."

McNamara said she did not look at rankings much when she applied to college, but sees the benefit they can have when entering the work force.

"If you go to a top school, you could get a better job," she said.