How many members of the National Academy of Engineering are on the faculty at the University of Southern California?
This might seem like a straightforward question, but it's anything but when you add in the politics of rankings. USC's Viterbi School of Engineering maintains a list of 34 faculty members it says are in the academy. And when reporting to U.S. News & World Report, which uses NAE members on the faculty as one criterion in its rankings of top engineering graduate schools (where USC landed at No. 7), Southern California claimed 30 members.
But according to the National Academy of Engineering, USC has only 22 members on its faculty.
No. That's not from the Onion. That is from Inside Higher Ed, which is a key online source for news and opinions (and jobs) on all matters related to higher education. So they dug a little deeper into what has gone over at U$C* and the details are just crazy:
In some cases, those listed as USC faculty members with academy membership appear to have been added to the roster a bit after their peak research years. Simon Ramo -- whose career has been distinguished in developing weapons systems (the R in the company TRW is for his name) -- wasn't named to the USC faculty until last year. He was 94 at the time. The USC directory does not indicate any contact information for him on campus.
USC provided three different explanations to Inside Higher Ed when asked why it was claiming more faculty members as NAE members than it appears to have. First, an official said that some faculty members work elsewhere, in the business world for example, and teach part time at USC. Told that such faculty members wouldn't meet the U.S. News criteria (which count as faculty members those who are full time and on the tenure track), the officials responsible for handling the rankings referred questions to the dean, who said that all 30 National Academy of Engineering members claimed by USC as faculty members teach full time.
Then, when Inside Higher Ed provided USC with a list of 17 of the 34 supposed faculty members who did not appear to be full-time faculty members after all, USC said it was reviewing its procedures for counting, and had informed U.S. News of a possible problem.
I guess just keep this story in mind whenever you see U$C* ranked anywhere in U.S. News' academic rankings. That too is a joke and should be accompanied by an asterisk. I guess when talk about U$C* and lack of institutional control it goes way beyond their semi professional sports programs. It's ingrained in their culture.