In the summer of 2011, The Huffington Post named Case Western Reserve University its Trendiest “School that Flies Under the Academic Radar but Shouldn’t.” If ever there had been a distinction that the university shouted to the rooftops, this would be it. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I witnessed the school proclaim this recognition, I probably could have traded my university education for beachfront property in the Hamptons.
The phrase “We’re Trendy” dominated university department websites last year, articles in The Daily often led with the accolade, and marketing materials around campus printed the joyous news in crisp Titillium (the university’s official font).
Well, the party is now over – at least as far as The Huffington Post and Princeton Review are concerned.
This past Monday, The Huffington Post published Princeton Review’s ranking of “The Least Beautiful Campuses” in the United States. Prominently placed on the first slide: Case Western Reserve University.
Given the hullabaloo surrounding last year’s recognition, this news came as quite a shock to the institution – even capturing the attention of president Barbara R. Snyder at the State of the University Address, which occurred the day following the ranking’s release.
“I really do not know why they ranked us such,” Snyder said. “The campus is really beautiful, and I felt terrible about that ranking. I am very proud of our campus,” she added.
The Huffington Post certainly didn’t aid CWRU’s cause by placing a dreary photo of a snow-covered North Residential Village next to our ranking.
Now, before I elaborate, I must point out that the campus was clearly no looker this past week. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, trees were tipped on end, soaked leaves paved roadways, and a solemn gray sky draped over the campus. However, despite Cleveland’s reputation, this isn’t the average appearance for the university, especially in the spring, summer, and early fall.
Clearly the organizers behind Princeton Review’s ranking never visited campus when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom during April. Clearly they never witnessed the KSL Oval on a sunny day at the dawn of summer. Clearly they never meandered through the Mather Quad on a fall afternoon amidst the drifting autumn leaves. Clearly they have never seen our university at all.
It’s hard to deny that CWRU displays some interesting aesthetic points. The modern artwork and 1960s architecture around campus combine to create interesting visuals; however, what some argue is ugly, I assert is character.
Across the CWRU campus, modern buildings, such as the Peter B. Lewis Building, and antique landmarks, such as Clark Hall, sit close together in perfect harmony. This may be deemed unattractive to Princeton Review and The Huffington Post, but it’s a pure indication of the CWRU culture to me.