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UVA Law School boycotts U.S. News rankings

The University of Virginia School of Law has suspended cooperation with the U.S. News and World Report rankings, joining many of its peers in withholding data over concerns about the formula used by the publication.

In an open letter to prospective students in early January, law dean Risa Goluboff explained that “concerns that the rankings do not adequately capture the values of our law school” led to the decision to not submit answers this year to questions that U.S. News poses to gather data for its rankings. Those answers are typically due in January.

“As they currently stand, the U.S. News rankings fail to capture much of what we value at UVA—facilitating access to legal education and the legal profession for students from every background; fostering the free exchange of ideas within a community of joy, humanity, and trust; providing top-notch teaching by accomplished faculty; supporting public service; and launching our graduates into the stellar career paths of their choosing,” Goluboff wrote in the letter.

According to reports, at least 16 law schools that U.S. News ranks among the top 50 have withdrawn cooperation with the publication. Nine of the top 10 schools, including No. 1 Yale School of Law, No. 5 Harvard and No. 8 UVA, have suspended cooperation with the rankings. Among schools most recently ranked in the top 10, only the University of Chicago (No. 3) said it plans to continue to cooperate.

“It has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the U.S. News rankings reflect,” John F. Manning, the dean of Harvard Law, wrote in a November statement announcing its withdrawal of cooperation.

U.S. News has said that it plans to continue ranking fully accredited law schools regardless of whether they submit data, utilizing publicly available information through the American Bar Association, including admissions and test score data. It told The New York Times in November it stood by its mission to “ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide.”

However, the publication has not said how it will account for the departed schools’ missing information or what changes it might make in response to the critiques law schools have made, Goluboff wrote in her message. “Schools might move up or down the rankings, perhaps significantly, not because their quality has changed but because U.S. News has changed its formula in ways that are neither transparent nor meaningful.”

The dean stressed that UVA School of Law will “continue to engage with U.S. News as it undertakes possible changes to the rankings, and we remain open to revisiting our decision in the future.”