Wikipedia talk:Avoid academic boosterism

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Mythos / Reputation[edit]

I've been trying to figure out what's really going on here, and not just here but in general in the whole "seelectivity" business in college guides and so on. Here's what I think: It is not seemly and polite to talk about a college's "mythos," but that's what's going on. One of the important things about Harvard is that "Harvard Aura" and the same is true of other "selective" institutions. You go there, you know you're hanging out with future Nobel Prize winners, or at least with people who can plausibly sound like future Nobel Prize winners. And this is known in the public at large.

So my question is, how can we talk about this in wikipedia? Some colleges have "Wobegon University in popular culture" sections,but these are mostly lists of mentions on TV. Seems to this is the place to mention "aura", and in some cases there's specific examples to bring up: Robert Pirsig and the University of Chicago, Paper Chase and Yale. For smaller schools, not so much. I went to Carleton College, which has the reputation as the highest-caliber college in Minnesota. But there's no movie or popular book that backs this up, and no news outlet wants to tick off alumni of other places unnecessarily by saying things like "Minnesota's top college". Maybe reference here to less-rigorous college guides (like College Prowler or The Insider's Guide to the Colleges) is in order, under the rubric of "How Carleton College is talked about," separate from verifiable stats.

The point is, if we can find some way to talk about reputation that isn't the article defining that reputation, I think that will get at a lot of the underlying issues here. Any suggestions are welcome.

Interesting point, Natcase. Reputation and mythos are important aspects of a college's image. I dare say it influences a lot of personal attendance decisions. A separate section would be required to describe this. I can see it leading to a lot of controversy, though, because there are at least three distinct views of a college that conflict and compete: internal self-image, external self-image, and image in popular culture. Take Yale for example. It is an elite college for sure. Graduating from Yale confers huge status points (and not just because of superior academics) over graduating from SRSU (some random state university). There are positive aspects to its image: cream-of-the-crop, creates national and world political, business, and academic leaders, etc. There are also negative aspects to its image: old money snobbery, old-boys network, etc. It would be easy to find citations for these things, but I suspect Yale grads would hate the negative aspects and start edit wars.
I guess the real question here is do editors feel it is within the mission of the encyclopedia to describe these very real aspects of a university's reputation? I think so. Vantelimus (talk) 20:16, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
I would emphasize extreme caution going down this road because as Ventelimus sagely points out that the motivation to present an internal self-image would be overwhelmingly dominant owing to the fact that the only contributors are likely to be alumni and students. The selectively cited sources and authors casting an institution would preferentially find themselves into the articles while more negative perspectives would be preferentially excluded. One need only examine the extent to which "objective" numerical assessments are are made to conform to the POV of boosters writing the article: the negative "rankings" in the Princeton Review inevitably are no where to be found, US News and ARWU rankings are regurlarly parsed (nth best public university) to increase standing, and inconvenient facts such as low freshmen retention, high graduate debt, or 4-year graduation rates are excluded altogether. One should expect that the exact same will happen if we are to dive into entirely unquantifiable mediations on reputation as institutions whose objective quality could never be otherwise impugned are now finding that they're losing the "reputation" arms race because it's become a proxy for "quality". That's why I find this whole sideshow about selectivity to be so farcical - the term has been appropriated on such a large scale and so much weight and consternation invested in it by administrators, students, and editors that it's become meaningless if an institution with an 82% acceptance rate can be verifiably described exactly the same as one with a 9% rate. In addition, it's far too easy to trade on historical developments or notable alumni to draw inappropriate conclusions regarding the state of the present institution. For those tiniest minority of institutions whose reputations increase with distance, discussion of "reputation" may be appropriate within the context of the history section, but inappropriate elsewhere. But once that firewall is breached, you can be sure that SRSU is going to be claiming its reputation compares favorably with Harvard's. The success and seriousness of this project depends upon the checks we are willing to impose upon ourselves to ensure that these articles and the project as a whole remains useful, relevant, and neutral rather than wastelands of astroturf cited to glossy admissions pamphlets. Madcoverboy (talk) 20:52, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

IHEP rankings resource[edit]

The Institute for Higher Education Policy, an American non-profit, has just created a Ranking Systems Clearinghouse on their website. This may be useful to editors concerned with academic reputations and sources that should or can be used in make related arguments. --ElKevbo (talk) 13:50, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

Good find! Madcoverboy (talk) 14:42, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

US Dept. of Education College Navigator[edit]

Another excellent, free, standardized, and open source for college information: College Navigator Madcoverboy (talk) 16:54, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

RfC Policy[edit]

User:Aboutmovies has disputed whether or not the content of this guideline is official policy since User:Madcoverboy may have inadvertently promoted it. Please help us assess whether this proposed guideline represents a standard and documented good practice that all editors and school/college/university articles should follow. Madcoverboy (talk) 18:52, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

Support[edit]

  • Support as nominator This should be promoted to a style policy/guideline because existing WP policies of WP:PEACOCK and WP:WEASEL are not specific enough or always applicable to college/university articles. Madcoverboy (talk) 18:57, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Support as helpful to flesh out existing policies in more detail for this class of articles. --ElKevbo (talk) 19:14, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Support as it is always helpful to weed out articles that were clearly re/written by the article subject's PR/Communications Departments. This helps keep both Wikipedia and the subject from over-glorification - and especially for higher-education articles, I believe that an example of clear neutrality will be beneficial. - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 21:27, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
  • Support as guideline (I've learned that policies trump guidelines and I'm not sure all the ramifications of this one have been examined). The value of Wikipedia to universities is to present them as NPOV as possible; boosterism destroys that and makes the Wikipedia articles no better than the PR issued by the universities.--Curtis Clark (talk) 02:48, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Oppose[edit]

  • Oppose - I fail to see a need for this, as I cannot think of a situation where WP:PEACOCK, WP:WEASEL, WP:AVOID, WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:UNDUE, and WP:LEAD do the trick. This is a classic example of instruction creep that should be avoided. Boosterism is not confined to schools, it is a problem in just about every area (see WP:AUTOBIO and even WP:COI), and we have many, many, many, many, guidleines/policies to address the problem (see the alphabet soup I listed above). Though if it does pass, you need to make changes to "Do not bury the reader in facts" as it starts off saying you can't have these facts, then later its OK to have them but not in the lead. I'm assuming this was meant to be a pure lead specific issue, though WP:LEAD already covers it, thus why it is unneeded. Aboutmovies (talk) 08:19, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
    • It's exactly because there is a litany of diffuse policies that can be invoked that there is a need for a specific and succinct guideline synthesizing the various strains of thought from each. I would echo ElKevbo (talk · contribs)'s comment that many of these opposes who don't edit college and university pages don't realize how pervasive and pernicious is the problem of COI editors to university/college pages nor that this guideline is the only central bulwark against these boosters and astroturfers. Madcoverboy (talk) 20:16, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
      • I do edit university pages and I do realize how much a problem this is. However, having another guideline isn't going to solve the problem if editors ignore it the way they do the existing guidelines. Cities, television shows, artists, albums, and pretty much every other subject can and has POV, peacock, etc. applied to it. We shouldn't have a separate guideline for each of those either. →Wordbuilder (talk) 21:50, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
        • We have specific topical guidelines for notability and specific topical guidelines for style, I see no reason why there shouldn't be specific topical guidelines for neutrality. The argument espoused below by Aboutmovies, RossPatterson, and other editors that higher-level policies are sufficient and specific enough to apply to this topic just as easily applies to style and neutrality guidelines yet the argument is negated by the existence of these specifc topical guidelines. BOOSTER isn't perfect and there appear to be contradictions and conflicts, but these can be fixed and shouldn't preclude this as being adopted as a guideline. Frankly, I would welcome there being specific neutrality/booster policies for cities, arts, etc. Madcoverboy (talk) 22:55, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose. First, it's not necessary: general guidelines are sufficient, and there are plenty of non-binding essays that say the same. No need for instruction creep. Second (quote): "A Wikipedia article should emphasize what an academic institution has and does rather than what is said about it" - this is apparently in conflict with WP:V and WP:RS. A wikipedia article, on the contrary, must rely on what was said in reliable sources. Remove what was said from an article and it's reduced to nothing but OR about having and doing. This interpretation, quite likely, was not intented by authors, but it's what the proposal says. NVO (talk) 13:35, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - As above, I'm pretty sure that this is all covered by things like WP:NPOV already. Furthermore, in the case of universities that actually are 'great' for some reason, you risk creating editing arguments. Mrh30 (talk) 14:19, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Aboutmovies is correct - the policies that cover all articles address this issue directly, succintly, and authoritatively. There is no reason for attempting to address it separately in this context and to thus introduce the potential for conflict over which policies govern. RossPatterson (talk) 16:26, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - The others in opposition are correct. This issue is addressed by existing rules/guidelines. There is no reason to pile on. →Wordbuilder (talk) 17:20, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • This page in a nutshell: WP:WEASEL and WP:PEACOCK apply to articles on academic institutions too. The general guidelines do the job; there's no need to specialize them, and only creates potential for contradictions, e.g. NVO's point about "what was said". Oppose as either a policy or a guideline. Kanguole (talk) 17:25, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - Other guidelines adequately cover boosterism. Vantelimus (talk) 20:04, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - as written, this is a much better essay than a guideline. Essentially the "rules" that this is trying to convey are covered by WP:NPOV and WP:V. Some of the content here appears to violate WP:RS by promoting non-independent, self-published sources and potentially original research. Karanacs (talk) 16:21, 2 January 2009 (UTC) P.S. for those concerned with who edits what, I am one of the most active members of WP:WikiProject Texas A&M. Karanacs (talk) 18:39, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
  • We don't necessarily care who edits what here. Look we are still just looking for opinions in hopes to reach a compromise (please read below). We don't require you to be a universities article guru, just a relative understanding of what and why this proposal exists. No one here needs to blab on about however many contributions he/she has made on Wiki or else I'd have almost 18,000 edits to copy and paste... >.< ::eek:: - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 20:06, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose -an interesting essay, a poor guideline. Racepacket (talk) 02:31, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Oppose - This is useful as an essay that elucidates the specifics of how WP:NPOV, WP:V, WP:PEACOCK, etc., apply to articles about colleges and universities. I think it will be helpful to give this type of essay to new users who are personally committed to the glorification of their favorite university, but it's a bit rough around the edges, and there is nothing here that needs to be elevated to the stature of a guideline. --Orlady (talk) 03:08, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Comment[edit]

  • i like it in principle, perhaps as a guideline for interpreting how NPOV works in these articles, but determining boosterism still seems rather subjective when you are dealing with universities that are actually great. Ameriquedialectics 20:18, 31 December 2008 (UTC)
  • The template at the top needs to be changed from "proposed guideline" to "guideline under review" or "guideline up for demotion" or similar. In a hurry or would do it myself. Old versions call it a guideline. davidwr/(talk)/(contribs)/(e-mail) 17:30, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
    • Yes check.svg Done Changed from {{Proposed}} to {{Disputedtag}} Madcoverboy (talk) 08:46, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
  • I note with interest that, right now, it appears that the support !votes are coming from editors who are heavily involved with college and university articles and the oppose !votes from editors who are not heavily involved in those articles. I opine that those of us who regularly edit these articles have a better understand of the need for this specific policy/guideline. --ElKevbo (talk) 18:32, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
    • Really? First that really doesn't matter, or are you saying small groups of interested editors should make Wikipedia wide rules? Second, I started the opposes, and I started the following higher ed articles: Minthorn Hall, University of Oregon School of Law, History of Oregon State University, Waller Hall (GA), Hallie Ford Museum of Art (GA), Willamette University School of Education, Mark O. Hatfield Library, Symeon C. Symeonides, Thomas Milton Gatch, Eaton Hall (Oregon), Willamette University College of Medicine, Gatke Hall, Willamette Collegian, Oregon Civic Justice Center, Willamette Law Review, Francis S. Hoyt, Willamette Bearcats, Art Building, Branford Price Millar Library, Pioneer Pacific College, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, & Pacific University Health Professions Campus. Throw in a DYK for expanding University of Liberia, working Willamette University College of Law into a GA, and dealing with COI edits by employees at Pacific University, Oregon State University, and others, I think I'm pretty qualified to understand the problem, personally. Aboutmovies (talk) 07:03, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
      • Listing all your contributions doesn't make you right. You and any of the opposing editors adhering to this argument of existing general policies's adequacy need to first and foremost justify how a topical neutrality guideline is an example of instruction creep but existing topical guidelines for notability and style aren't. Madcoverboy (talk) 08:20, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
        • Nobody said it did make me right regarding the topic of this RFC. The list is to refute the contention that opposes come from non-university editors, and the list does make me right in that refutation, at least as applied to me. Second, the people opposed here do not have to do anything in the way of proof. But the classic, "if all your friends jumped off a bridge would you too" argument is all that is needed. Or to put it another way, just because we already have instruction creep does not justify having more of it. PEACOCK, WEASEL and WORDSTOAVOID could and should really be combined into one guideline. After all, I would assume weasel words and peacock terms are by their inclusion into guidelines that discourage their usage would thus, by definition, be WORDSTOAVOID. Aboutmovies (talk) 08:42, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
          • It seems to me that you and other opposing editors are more opposed to instruction creep than the content or intent of this specific guideline because that is the only argument being espoused. For what has been a highly effective guideline to date, this is a very strange place to draw a line in the sand. Madcoverboy (talk) 08:56, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
            • It seems like Aboutmovies is listing your contributions like it's his curriculum vitae or something. Instead of showing off the list of articles you've touched, why don't you work on a compromise? Link-dumping doesn't make the situation go away, nor does it make people see things your way. Please remain productive here. - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 09:01, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
              • Sorry, but ElKevbo brought up contributions. Which as I said, are not particularly relevant (nor should any editor related issues be relevant), but the issue was raised, and as such has been refuted. If you would like to keep it focused on this topic's merits, feel free to, but comments related to opposer's ability to judge this topic will be responded to if raised. As to a compromise, make it an essay. Aboutmovies (talk) 09:15, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
                • Not intended to get inside your mind... I'm interested in seeing how you respond to Madcoverboy's question posted right before my last post regarding your opposition due to instruction creep. It's not that I'm trying to pick on one specific topic against the opposition, I just want to understand what point-of-view you're coming from so editors who support this may look into a better compromise. - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 09:22, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
                  • As I said, more creep does not fix the problem, and I am in favor of a distillation of many existing guidelines into one succinct guideline. And had I been around/aware of these other policies/guidelines that have led to creep, I would have fought against it then. Next, it almost seems as if Madcoverboy is advocating that we let this through and say screw creep. It's that or, something along the lines of, let's let this one through and then we'll draw the line in the sand but let this one get through. But for me the, the line in the sand has been drawn, and this has gone over it, and so have other ones. That is, my line in the sand was drawn say down on Venice beach in SoCal and we are already up in San Francisco somewhere with this and other guidelines. Now, not to draw really bad analogies, but saying in essence "we should have this one more" is like saying let's go ahead keep cutting down more trees on this steep hillside that is prone to landslides, as half the trees have already been cut down. But I think ultimately what it comes down to is that some people who write about universities see a need for this, I however do not see a need for this as existing rules exist for dealing with this issue, and pointing out that other rules are also repetative only makes me want to go get those merged, not make me go, ohh screw it lets go ahead and have 1 million rules so we no longer have the "encyclopedia anyone can edit" and have the "encyclopedia where your edit will be reverted on sight since somewhere we have a rule against that edit". Aboutmovies (talk) 10:07, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
                    • As I outline below in the compromise section, no other area of Wikipedia (perhaps with the exception of politicians, bands/artists, and companies/organizations) are the knowledgeable editors whom we depend on to write the article so completely enmeshed in conflicts of interest with the topics they write about. It thus stands to reason that we are justified in having a stand-alone neutrality policy to deal head on with the issue of rampant but unavoidable COI and systemic bias. We absolutely need to have this or some other guideline in place to make it explicitly clear to editors that the purpose of a college/university wikipedia article is not for it to duplicate or approximate glossy, happy admissions paraphernalia no matter how verifiable or reliable those sources may be. Invoking the abstract policies you outline simply doesn't have enough specificity or teeth in the face of pervasive COI and systemic bias. Madcoverboy (talk) 11:41, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
    • ElKevbo: What did you expect? Yes, the authors of the proposal come from a specific wiki-circle, and so are their supporters. All four of them. Quite naturally. Once the RFC was posted elsewhere, you have an inflow of outsiders that do not engage actively in United States college articles. Like it or not, they outnumber your group. Like it or not, they don't support "concensus" homebrewed by a small group but intended to be binding for everyone and even supersede general policies and guidelines. It happens regularly; some large wikiprojects (i.e. MILHIST) impose their rulings successfully, some fail to do so. Maybe a little positive PR would be helpful. Note that (quote) "those of us who regularly edit these articles have a better understanding" does not help it. NVO (talk) 10:17, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
      • I expect there to be some modicum of respect for content experts. I'm not a physicist but if those physicists who actively edit Wikipedia were to report that there was a serious, persistent, and long-term problem with the physics articles in Wikipedia I would certainly give them a considerable amount of respect and judge their comments accordingly. Of course, I don't expect the interests of any one group of editors to hold sway over everyone and this back-and-forth is natural, healthy, and necessary, particularly to reign in groups that may too zealous or overly focused on one class of articles or interests. --ElKevbo (talk) 17:59, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
        • OK... let's stop that right there. Look, it's easy to single out one editor when trying to reach for a compromise. Please keep the discussion clean and keep in mind the objective here, which is still trying to settle this disputed policy - not to put any specific editor on trial. Leave that for User:GlassCobra/Editor for deletion. - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 19:51, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
  • Looking through other WP policies and the lack of non-style project/topic-specific guidelines, it may be appropriate to merge this content into WP:UNIGUIDE. Madcoverboy (talk) 20:25, 1 January 2009 (UTC)
  • It may have to come down to merging this into UNIGUIDE. I'm just not sure if whether after the merge UNIGUIDE as a whole would require another approval by the community again. - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 00:34, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Compromise proposal[edit]

An option would be to redirect this to UNIGUIDE and shorten it to something along the lines of this: Articles on academic institutions are prone editing and the usage of terms to place the institution in a favorable light. This boosterish editing detracts from the quality of those articles and should be avoided. To achieve this goal, articles on academic institutions should abide by all Wikipedia guidelines and policies. These include:

This solves my problem, as it prevents additional proliferation of guidelines that are simply repetitive. But it allows you to have a quick summary of the problem you find. You can change the shortcut to the new section and then cite BOOSTER to your hearts desire (though technically simply citing guidelines is discouraged). I didn't mention this before, but saying the article must be "honest" is really over the top. It would be like saying the article needs to make sense. Its a duh, and its covered by the verifiablity policy, in that if you are dishonest then it is not what the source said, thus cannot be verified. But this is the type of solution that would address my issue. Aboutmovies (talk) 09:50, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

I'm not opposed to this as an outcome. However, Aboutmovies' distillation doesn't do enough to acknowledge the fact that (unlike WP:MILHIST, WP:HURRICANE, or WP:HWY where knowledgeable editors needn't have a stake in the articles nor do their WikiProject wonks constantly have to justify their actions to the various fiefdoms continually claiming ownership of their articles) university article are almost always written by editors with clear COI (either as students receiving housing/financial aid from the college/university or as alumni whose compensation is concomitant with the prestigiousness of their degree). Accepting this unmitigatable reality, it needs to be made absolutely crystal clear that the purpose of any college/university article is not to be a monument to the institution's greatness, even in light of the fact that sources exist (and especially in the absence of any consensus on the reliability of university sources) that can be marshaled or recontextualized to corroborate an assertion of its "prestigious", "elite", "super duper awesome", etc. status. In my wildest of pipe dreams, the lay reader should expect that the articles for Bunker Hill Community College or the City College of San Francisco read no differently than the articles for Harvard or Stanford. Madcoverboy (talk) 11:26, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
This COI passage is quite far-fetched. I understand your concern about swarms of college fans, but take it one bit further, and it's time to disqualify all US residents from editing US-related articles (they do get public services from the government, whether they want it or not). Or call the Pentagon to examine all MILHIST participants for present/past/grandfathers connection to the service. Everyone has something special about their subjects, otherwise they won't be here, there's no need to brand COI on any student, past or present. NVO (talk) 11:47, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
It's not far fetched at all to assert that alumni absolutely have a stake as I believe you imply (the case of the students should be far more obvious). There are already two separate rankings of university's web presence (Webometrics Ranking of World Universities and Global Language Monitor's online media citations) so it's not at all difficult to see Wikipedia article ratings figuring into the latest/greatest university rankings. These new rankings dutifully parroted and promolgated by the university news offices with the appropriate taglines for unusual usurptions on web pages, news releases, student newspapers, and local media. Ohio Wesleyan University does not figure into most popular "top 10" sorts of rankings, but being one of a handful of university FAs certainly increased its stock, not least of all in my book having read about their international emphasis. What of the fact that the Wikipedia article is almost always one of the top 5 hits on a google search - has that no impact? The alumni of rarely-acknowledged colleges/universities have every right and ability to make the case of the quality of their school here on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the cheapest sort of advertising - University of Phoenix and Regis University likely both wish they could always figure into the top 5 google hits - Wikipedia is advertising and advertising intentionally mediates our perceptions of value. Maybe I should just take my tin foil hat off, but if there is not a ranking incorporating Wikipedia article "quality" into its methodology published by December 31, 2010, I will pledge my editing services to a randomly selected AAU member article to bring it up for FAC. Madcoverboy (talk) 12:05, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
Tying lifetime well-being to the college name? What's right (if right) for fresh graduates soon evaporates; the yearbook may still be a source of helpful contacts, but that's it. I have no interest in current ranking of my alma mater (it was over twenty years ago), why would I? NVO (talk) 12:45, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I also believe talk of COI is a bit over the top. I was in the 'oppose' camp, and am a consistent editor of University of Cambridge related articles. I went there and like the university, but I can and do edit out people trying to unfairly inflate (or deflate) it, under the pre-existing guidelines and policies mentioned above. Of course every article written influences people's perception of a topic, whether written in a reasonably neutral manner or not. This isn't confined to university articles. There's no right, or wrong, way to create the emphasis other than the building of consensus, which WP has plenty of well defined mechanisms for already. I still come back to the fact that this seems to just be a specific case of WP:NPOV. If you start legislating for this, you're going to need to create similar cloned articles for things like sports teams, political parties, countries with rivalries and so on. Before you know it, it will all be out of control! Mrh30 (talk) 12:25, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
You can disagree with my perception of COI and the discussion above was a bit of a tangent, but do editors disagree with my central thesis and attendant implications? It is entirely possible to have an article chock-full of peacocked and weasel words describing the gloriousness of University X dutifully citing select sources. Those precious few wonkish editors who actually venture beyond the safe confines of their alma mater's article can attest to the ensuing and all-too-common dance: an edit/article is accused of non-neutrality/boosterism, previous contributors retreat behind the skirt of "Mother Verifiability", a long and predictable discussion about balancing neutrality, verifiability, reliability, ASF, and moralizing ensues (for which NPOV has a very unspecific section) with the neutrality-minded editor being vastly outnumbered by opposing !votes by editors with obvious COI and reduced to crying wolf yet again by canvassing other overworked wonks or appealing to the deafening silence of WP:UNI. The bruised and battered wonk leaves in due course and glamorizing content inevitably rematerializes with better citations but no attempt to address the bias of the article. Strip this of guideline status, and now those editors get to add legitimizing WP essays against accusations of their toothlessness to the repertiore of the dance. Sorry if this comes across as autobiographical, but I've been to a few hoedowns in my years here. Madcoverboy (talk) 19:52, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the COI clause is too much. You might want to soften it to say "Alumni who edit articles about their almas mater should be especially careful to maintain a neutral point of view.Vantelimus (talk) 23:50, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
Madcoverboy: I too understand the problem and have had the same experiences. But I have had those experiences just as often at non-university pages as well. Further, why is it you feel this being a guideline will some how be more effective than WP:NPOV, a policy. If people are already ignoring NPOV, I fail to see how another guideline would be effective. Which to quote one part of NPOV that is rather applicable to one of your issues: "Concerns related to undue weight, non-neutral fact selection and wording, and advancing a personal view, are not addressed even slightly by asserting that the matter is verifiable and cited. The two are different questions, and both must be considered in full, in deciding how the matter should be presented in an article." Thus it addresses your "mother verifiability" issue head on. As to COI, it exists everywhere in some form or another. And what is more, as at both my undergrad and now graduate institution, they didn't give me a dime. I or my parents have or will be paying them, so its a lot like going to Target and shopping, just for an education for my personal experience and plenty of others. So does that mean editors should watch what they right on articles of stores and businesses they frequent? Actually yes, but not because there is a COI, but because every editor on every article needs to abide by the various rules. And we have lots of rules, and we have rules that already exist for every situation covered by BOOSTER, so we don't need a re-hash or compilation or greatest hits album. We just need to treat university articles like every other article. Aboutmovies (talk) 07:42, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
I see where you're coming from, Aboutmovies. The purpose of WikiProject Universities is to further standardize articles with guidelines not already set or has not been clearly defined in the specified area. I cannot say what you quoted cannot be used in university articles - because it can. However, what Madcoverboy has been saying is that - "look, people are ignoring the policies we have on Wikipedia when it comes to university articles (and other topics too...) - let's further define by combining existing policies into a guideline specifically for university articles!" I agree it is not as effective as a policy. But he's trying to set an example here as an addendum to WP:UNIGUIDE. Coming from this angle, can you blame Madcoverboy for trying? You two are very passionate about run-ins/hoe-downs or whatever you two want to call it. It doesn't change a thing. We have an issue of editors placing COI and POV, PEACOCK...blah blah blah...*insert link dump here*. WP:BOOSTER... I want to say... encompasses all of those link dumps into something that specifically applies to university articles. It clarifies what is and is not acceptable in WP:UNI's beliefs and standards. Now, let's throw in the instruction creep comment here. Do we really need it? Actually, we do. When you get into a situation with a new editor who may not be a wiki-guru... most likely when you link-dump, they'll just TL:DR you. But if you clearly state what is okay on WP:BOOSTER for university articles, you read one thing it's done - if the guy actually doesn't TL:DR you, he/she'll link on the internal links and read further. Personally I don't see a problem with what Madcoverboy is doing. However, once again, let's work out a solution here, siding yourself to one extreme is easy - working towards a compromise isn't. Let's stop being the immovable object before an unstoppable force comes along ... :) - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 08:11, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
That last bit was a weird analogy... >.< - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 08:14, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Please stop telling me to work towards a compromise. I've proposed two (make it an essay, combine with UNIGUIDE), and all I seem to get is, no let's have this as is. So, I've been working on moving towards a compromise. Aboutmovies (talk) 08:22, 3 January 2009 (UTC)
Assuming this is rejected as a policy or guideline, it would be better as an essay than a redirect to UNIGUIDE. UNIGUIDE should be tweaked a bit to incorporate some of this material but this would be more useful to me as an essay than a redirect. --ElKevbo (talk) 17:55, 2 January 2009 (UTC)
I think the current compromise definitely addresses the points made from both sides of the support and oppose sections (mind the COI discussion directly below the compromised wording aside) it is probably what we'll have to do. I agree with ElKevbo that we should probably change this to an essay, and then tweak this revised wording into UNIGUIDE. - Jameson L. Tai talkguestbookcontribs 20:20, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

Hoedown at UC Berkeley[edit]

All too typical example of boosterism at University of California, Berkeley. Everyone is welcome to follow the predictable discussion along and see why it is so important to have this as a guideline. Madcoverboy (talk) 23:44, 3 January 2009 (UTC)

OK, I looked, and agree it shouldn't likely be in the lead and needs to re-worded slightly. But going from your statements there, I have a feeling may mis-understand what NPOV is on Wikipedia. As the policy states to begin with:
  • All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources. (emphasis added)
Thus we do not eliminate the view, in fact, that view must be represented, but also must be represented alongside any contrary views that also meet the RS and V guidelines. An even better explanation is under the explanation. Pay close attention to the part where it is OK to say The Beattles are the greatest band ever (i.e. Cal is one of the bestest of the bestest) if done properly, which certainly is an opinion and is far from neutral and hard to quantify. NPOV is neutral, in that we present all the POVs after ensuring they are reputable opinions. Where needed, opinions about the subject matter are included (e.g. The Beattles are the best or Cal is great) and properly attributed to reliable sources. Now, we would also include just the facts as well, and there we let those speak for themselves, and do not provide our own opinions as Wikipedia editors as to what that content means. For instance, let's say university X is rated #1 in Country A for 20 straight years by every rankings list known to man. That info gets added, but editors cannot then synthesize and say it is the bestest school in the whole-wide country. That would be the editor's opinion. But, if sources do say that university X is the bestest, then that can be added if that opinion is properly attributed to that source.
Basically, Wikipedia is supposed to mirror the real world, and in the real world some schools are considered better than others, thus that should be reflected in Wikipedia. Trying to remove that is essentially a bias in itself. So if reliable sources say Cal is whatever it is, then that needs to be in Wikipedia, whether whatever that is is positive or negative. So there really isn't a fire here to put out. (Note the other editors there seem to agree with you that the lead isn't the best place for it and a better source is needed). Aboutmovies (talk) 08:06, 4 January 2009 (UTC)
The edit of mine you quote was a heat-of-the-moment, poorly summarized version of WP:ASF. The ensuing discussion was not one of my proudest moments, but the discussion highlights how citing a litany of policies (as the opponents suggest) doesn't always ensure compliance or understanding. As I mentioned, my primary concern in "demoting" BOOSTER to essay is that editors now need justify the legitimacy of it as documenting reams of hard-fought consensus among dozens of editors over several years, and not just the view of an editor written in a day. Aboutmovies, you seem to be the most knowledgeable so far in this domain of essay/guideline/policy and I'd like something to assuage my fears that demoting this to essay isn't going to totally strip it of its teeth. Hold me ;) Madcoverboy (talk) 08:43, 4 January 2009 (UTC)
It would strip it of its teeth for many, as essays are only arguments. That's why the better option for you would be the merge. Some people out there have argued that essays are somehow binding, but that is not what Wikipedia:Essay says, in fact it says that essays may or may not reflect any sort of consensus (or the consensus of one). Of course I have had someone point me to Wikipedia:ONLYESSAY, which is itself an essay, which is to say, an essay saying essays are to be followed is circular. But, many editors do tend to pay some attention to them. And here you are really summarizing a variety of policies/guidelines, so a "hey you POV pusher look at this nice summary to see why I am opposed to your edit" might be what you are looking for. But, ultimately, a guideline has more teeth. BTW, Here is an example of the boosterish behavior in a non-school context. Companies are normally even worse. Aboutmovies (talk) 10:16, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Consensus[edit]

I'm going to demote this to essay per the consensus from the RfC above. However, I am going to encourage all editors to go to WP:ADVOCACY which is also a proposed guideline. ADVOCACY appears to address the issues many of the supporting issues raised while also being sufficiently general to speak to the justifications for several editors' opposition. Madcoverboy (talk) 16:17, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

I made some substantial changes to the essay to address issues and inconsistencies that editors pointed out. If you don't like them, I'm sure we can discuss it ad nauseum but since this is a non-binding essay now, it has no real teeth. If you're categorically opposed to everything this essay stands for, then I encourage you to go write the Wikipedia:Embrace academic boosterism essay! Madcoverboy (talk) 22:58, 15 January 2009 (UTC)

Marquette University Law School[edit]

Could someone please take a look at Marquette University Law School. I have neither the time nor the patience to deal with it. Thanks. --Sift&Winnow 18:19, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

I've done some trimming/ce/reorg, but it still needs independent sourcing and probably one more pass to get all the POV out. I've also left a friendly message with the primary (recent) contributor to point out some of the key parts of this essay. Karanacs (talk) 19:07, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Ethnocentrism[edit]

I realize that the list of universities down the right is ultimately for a sardonic purpose. But it does seem odd that, even half-jokingly, the best university of every kind (even what are in my view silly kinds) are all from the anglosphere (and perhaps all from two countries).

I start with the first one, the oldest. I'm amazed to read that Oxford was the oldest; I'd thought that this honor (for what it's worth) went to University of Al-Karaouine. True, that wasn't really a university -- but then for much of its history neither was Oxford.

(Ah, but then Talk:List of oldest universities in continuous operation is vigorously policed by editors who have defined "university" as of European origin. Whence the didactic last paragraph of the introduction to the article on Al-Azhar University.)

For a bit more variety, one might add the University of Tokyo, for its importance to (the grip that its old boy network has had on) the government of a nation. (Check the percentage of Japanese cabinet members who have come from there. Oh, and I do mean boy: sexism has been as blatant as cronyism.) -- Hoary (talk) 05:33, 14 September 2010 (UTC)

The short answer is, I created the images & captions and I exclusively edit U.S. institutions, so I'm necessarily biased thusly. It's certainly the case that universities that are "consistently highly ranked" are in the anglosphere, thus these are the universities that have the more pervasive problems of boosterism. Whether this preponderance of ranking of anglophone universities is an artifact of anglophiles primarily creating the ranking systems (ARWU being a notable exception) or anglophiles being hung up on their relative position in the hierarchy is left as an exercise for the reader. Madcoverboy (talk) 15:30, 14 September 2010 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I used to think the University of Bologna was the oldest, but I'm not surprised to find that that claim is challenged. Of course, it's not so clear what counts as a "university" nor what counts as "oldest." Dpbsmith (talk) 23:45, 16 October 2011 (UTC)

Mainstream rankings are not entirely subjective[edit]

They are measuring the reputation of universities among other universities and top employers. It's not boosterism to note the fact that a university is consistently rated highly -- in the top 10 nationwide, let's say -- by peers and Fortune 500s. It's a plain fact. I think we should allow rankings (from mainstream/reliable sources, such as Forbes, USNWR, and so forth) to be placed in the lede. Steeletrap (talk) 07:30, 16 July 2014 (UTC)