The University of Chicago Chooses Decline

Jeremy Rozansky:

The University of Chicago hit two mile-markers in its decade-long transformation this week. The first, generally celebrated by students, alumni, and their parents, is a new high-water mark in the school’s US News & World Report ranking. The University now shares the fourth spot with Columbia, rising from 12 a few years ago and leapfrogging Stanford, Penn, and MIT, among others.
The second is a reduction in the graduation requirements. Starting next quarter, graduates will not have to pass a swimming test and either pass a fitness test or take three PE classes to graduate. In an email to students, the Dean of the College cited a rationale steeped in the lingo of a marketing consultant:

The change in the College physical education requirement occurs in the context of a larger decision by the University to reimagine and expand our fitness and athletics programs to meet growing demand and the diverse needs of our community.

These may seem like unrelated incidents, but they reflect a massive paradigm shift in the way the University sees itself. Since it wants donations from trustees who prize vacuous but still prestigious measures of schooling excellence like the US News rankings, the University has goaded itself into playing the rankings game.