The University with the Best Media Buzz Is ... (Not Harvard)

Harvard University took a hit in a new survey from the Global Language Monitor, ceding its top spot in the college "media buzz" rankings to the University of Michigan. As a Big Ten grad who's school didn't make the list, I'll bitterly add that the GLM clearly isn't factoring in college football reputation, since the University of Michigan is in danger of posting its second straight losing season for the first time since the Johnson administration. Ahem.

Let's take a look at these rankings and decide whether they mean anything.

GLM measures a school's reputation by counting and valuating appearances "in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet throughout the blogosphere, and including social media such as Twitter." Here are the top ten schools:

1 University of Michigan--Ann Arbor, MI
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MA
3 Harvard University, MA
4 Columbia University, NY
5 University of Chicago, IL
6 University of California--Berkeley, CA
7 University of Wisconsin--Madison , WI
8 Stanford University, CA
9 University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill, NC
10 Cornell University, NY
11 Yale University, CT
12 Princeton University, NJ
13 University of Pennsylvania, PA
14 University of California--Los Angeles, CA
15 University of Washington, WA

This is not entirely intuitive to me -- it's hard to imagine a measure of reputation in which Yale and Princeton finish outside the top ten. GLM acknowledges that Harvard's fall is largely the result of its endowment suffering a 30 percent tumble to $25 billion, which is still an astronomical figure. Most of the media attention on the list will focus on Harvard's fall, but equally interesting is the University of Chicago's spill from 3rd to 5th place on the list. The "Chicago School" of economics, which is known for more free market libertarian principles than other economic graduate schools, has taken a similar reputation hit in the wake of the Great Recession. More bewildering is MIT, which shot up to 2nd from 21st a year ago and 16th this Spring.

Finally, since the GLM is effectively measuring positive online mentions of universities, I'll finish by noting that Northwestern University's football team looked awesome in last week's road win against fourth-ranked Iowa -- I'm sure the school's rigorous academic curriculum was relevant, somehow -- and while I was a student, the campus's cafeteria food was widely noted for its edibility. Sure, I'm shameless.