I’ve run out of columns. Here’s what’s left in my notebook:

1. The University administration still hasn’t released admissions data for next year’s entering class – the first full class after Proposal 2 passed, which means admissions officers can’t use race- and gender-based preferences to evaluate applicants. Instead, the administration is pretending that the admissions office is too busy to compile statistics at least until May. Apparently it’s significantly busier than last year, when it released four sets of statistics to the media, the first in February.

Here’s my question: Is the administration making excuses to delay the release of the information because the minority admissions rate is too low (a public relations disaster that could prompt some admitted underrepresented minorities to pick another school before the May 1 deadline), the minority admissions rate is too high (could invite dangerous legal scrutiny), or is there another reason administrators are lying?

2. Tony Vuljaj – who as a freshman was blamed for a denial-of-service attack on a rival student government party’s website during the contentious 2006 election – has had quite an undergraduate career. He’s been dragged through the mud in the Daily and other local media and has pled guilty to two felony charges all because he took the fall for a scandal that was clearly the initiative of party elders.

“Just following orders” isn’t always a good explanation, but when you’re a freshman in college it sometimes is. When you’re an upperclassman, though, and you convince some ambitious underclassman to use his computer to launch an illegal attack on a website and then let said underclassman suffer the consequences while you hide behind anonymity, there aren’t many good excuses for you.

3. Alum Arthur Miller once said that what he learned at the University of Michigan was how much he did not know. Freshmen, most of you still have three years left: Let’s see if you can learn that, too.

4. The collegiate kingmaker, U.S. News and World Report, is considering changes to its college rankings system. The proposed tweaks – most notably, asking high school counselors to evaluate colleges – are being billed as responses to last year’s avalanche of complaints from college presidents. But the problem with the rankings is not that they’re inaccurate. Of course they’re inaccurate. How could anyone possibly quantify the quality of such goliath, complex institutions? The problem is their influence.

I can say without a doubt that I would not be at this university without the power of those rankings (you don’t have to decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing until the end of this column). Too often these rankings are used as substitutes for real research into a college choice, and it’s not enough to ask students and parents to use them as a supplement, because their indirect effect is stronger than their direct effect. You don’t have to ever see a copy of the magazine to have the idea that this university is ranked about 25th in the nation. They shaped public opinion long ago and then commenced an afterlife of issuing self-fulfilling prophecies.

So the presidents can complain all they want and the magazine can tweak all it wants. Won’t make a difference.

5. As I spend my last week at the University, I can’t help wondering exactly how good of an undergraduate education this school offers. It’s hard to argue with the quality of the University’s professional programs (the business, engineering, medical and law schools). But is it too easy for some undergrads to skate through a liberal arts education without too much academic effort while still compiling a grade point average above 3.0 and receiving a diploma with the University seal on it? Probably.

6. I’ve been critical of the University in this space, but something needs to be said about the wonder of what goes on here.

Next time you’re standing on the Diag, imagine what it would be like to zoom out and see the University from above. Think about the incredible things happening on campus. In one room of Angell Hall a class is studying Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” and in the next a class is studying deleterious recessive genes. Another class is discussing the Edict of Nantes in detail. On North Campus engineers are inventing the next big thing. At the Medical School someone is trying to figure out how to distribute antiretroviral drugs to developing countries. Someone is thinking great thoughts in the Law Library about the correct interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. In Espresso Royale on State Street people are arguing about the U.S. Senate voting records of Barack Obama and John McCain with astounding specificity while someone else is still championing Ron Paul. On South Campus world-class athletes are preparing for the Olympics. One of the world’s great pianists is performing in Hill Auditorium. In the hospital people are being born and people are dying and people are being saved.

All in all, it’s a pretty good place.

Karl Stampfl was the Daily’s fall/winter editor in chief in 2007. He can be reached at kstampfl@umich.edu.

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