Shortly before one of my sons graduated from college in 1995, a terrible tragedy struck his university. A student in my son’s dorm murdered her roommate and then killed herself. This produced national headlines, but made no discernable impact on the school’s fine reputation. The next year it still had far more applicants for spaces than it had room for.
The same thing happened after the massacre of students by a crazed undergraduate at Virginia Tech. That university’s standing in the highly competitive world of higher education was unaffected. Will the University of Virginia, looking bad at the moment because of a leadership crisis, similarly survive the embarrassing battle over who should be its president?
What do you think? Students and their families searching for the right college can be turned off by news that suggests a campus is out of control or has rotten spots. My daughter immediately deleted Dartmouth from her list of possible schools when, on the day we visited , a news story revealed that a fraternity had been compiling a crude list of young women who were most amenable to the fraternity brothers’ charms.
Have you altered your college search because of some unexpected development at a school you admired? Were you less likely to give money to your alma mater because of some policy with which you disagreed? We have gone through boycotts aimed at universities whose stock portfolios included companies whose connections or activities seemed wrong to some. Have those campaigns affected your thinking?
I have never found a study that showed that such bad moments---as U-Va. is having now---had much affect on reputation, at least as measured by U.S. News rankings, volume of applications and fund-raising. Have I missed something? Will U-Va. get through this unscathed?