And here’s Update #2: Molly McGowan from the Times-News (and proud Elon alumna) ran a nice little column today about the whole ‘prettiest campus’ business What’s Really Pretty about the Elon Campus. (And, as an aside, she wrote several good articles this weekend on the opening of Company Shops Market which I enjoyed reading very much.)
Take heart, Molly. Several people have written me about the Beautiful Campus story saying stuff like “man, I fell for that!” and “I can’t believe I thought it was true!” These I find to be extremely interesting comments. It might in fact BE “true” that Elon is the most beautiful campus in the world. I’m just not ready to say that thebestcolleges.org is providing the proof or the evidence of that. Ryan, of course, wants his web site to be held up as proof or evidence, the same way we might set store by what a long-term provider of similar rankings such as US News says (and trust me, there are PLENTY of people who have very good reasons for mistrusting those sources too!).
A lot of times people just want to have their own beliefs validated, and when a source comes along to validate those beliefs, they tend to set aside their natural skepticism about the methodology, experience level, or possible biases of that source.
I think we need a methodologically sound long-term study, funded lavishly by someone like the Princeton Review, to be undertaken immediately by some of my buds in the humanities, that will investigate this question of university aesthetics for a duration of no less than 3-5 years on full pay and with a cadre of 20-30 undergraduate assistants. Who’s with me? 😉