Thursday, March 24, 2011

Born too late

Most of you know that TTT is an abbreviation of Third Tier Toilet. It used to connote a low-ranked institution but has become an all-purpose pejorative used either sarcastically or derisively or both.

The term comes from the moribund US News & World Report's system of ranking schools, particulary law schools, by splitting them into tiers and ranking only the top schools. USNWR's annual ratings issue is like catnip to the prestige-addled legal academy, immediately seized upon and parsed and agonized over. The influence a single, private company has over the ABA-accredited schools and their applicants is awe-inspiring; its headquarters might as well be at the summit of Mount Sinai.

Back in the good old days, prior to March 15, 2011, both USNWR and conventional wisdom spread the approximately 200 ABA schools evenly among four tiers. The top 100 schools comprising Tiers 1 and 2 were numerically ranked. The next groups were split into Tiers 3 and 4 and deemed worthy only of being listed alphabetically within their tier.

The ABA wastes much breath propounding what a noble, dignified, and progressive profession law is. The fact is that lax accreditation standards ensure there are many more graduates than legal jobs. The sole reason for Tier 3 and 4 schools to exist is to separate ignorant and greedy students from their money while providing comfortable livings to the faculty and administration. But, I digress.

Had I started this blog two weeks earlier its title wouldn't have been archaic. In one fell swoop, USNWR began ranking the top 75% schools numerically and reserved its undistinguished alphabetical listing for the absolute toilets that now make up the second tier. Bye bye, Third Tier. Overnight, prestttigious schools such as Wayne State became merely prestigious. Nando addressed the new rankings with his usual subtlety.

Eventually, which won't be long, the useful concept of the third tier will fade into obscurity. It was good while it lasted. Keep in mind that the numerical rankings are mostly meaningless and, except for elite schools, distinctions without a difference. Yale or fail.

Finally, my own alma mater has been in continual decline and is currently ranked #84. I was waiting for it to fall into the Third Tier but fate intervened.

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