Friday, April 29, 2011

The "No NUs" Club

("But you let in Northwestern?" "We're allowed to have one.")

So, Nebraska got kicked out of the Association of American Universities today. No, Nebraska is not getting kicked out of the Big Ten. Would Nebraska have been admitted to the conference without AAU membership? While I can't say for sure, they probably would have been; lots of schools being seriously considered were not AAU members.

But take heart, Nebraska fans: the AAU is a silly, increasingly irrelevant club. A few hundred academics at a few dozen universities decide which schools meet their necessary criteria (i.e., where would I be willing to teach if I were not already a tenured faculty member at Brown). Its criteria for membership are such that having top scholars on really, really important topics, like Jacques Derrida and the social meaning of boredom, but not things like producing more and safer foodstuffs. It has not admitted a new member in 10 years, because, hey, all the good work is already being done somewhere else, amirite? Besides, no one wants to live in Lincoln, Cornhuskers; it's bad enough I have to teach two lecture classes this semester and one of them meets on Fridays.

In a few years Nebraska will be flush with Big Ten cash (see also: Penn State). Nebraska will gain 25 spots or so in the U.S. News and World Report Rankings that no one except everyone pays attention to, and Nebraska will be asked to rejoin the AAU again. Whether they do or not will say nothing whatsoever about the quality of the university.