Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Higher education

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Boosterism, a wider conversation[edit]

Hi, as per WP:BOOSTERISM and WP:UNIGUIDE academic boosterism shouldn't be anywhere on WP:HED articles. However, it seems to have become the norm, with Yale, Harvard, Cantab, and Oxon articles all starting with a prestige statement. This issue has become noticeably endemic on business school articles. The links guides and essays already cover the reasons to avoid this kind of language, but given the current situation I was wondering two things:

  • This should be gotten rid of, right? If the answer is no, then what about Princeton, UCL etc. which are highly ranked where these kinds of claims aren't present, in the opening paragraph at least. If not also consider Trinity College Dublin, which mentions this kind of thing a lot in the intro, but ranks quite lowly. If we are to take rankings and prestige separately, can't anyone and everyone claim prestige, shouldn't this just be got rid of?
  • This problem has become quite endemic and it might be helpful to have a special project page or section dedicated to instances of it and removing it, so editors don't have issues when trying to handle it against conflicting editors. I'd be more than happy to help with anyone fighting POV issues on articles across the project, for example, however I feel this problem is going to keep returning unless there is a concerted effort.

Thanks Shadowssettle(talk) 12:57, 11 April 2020 (UTC)

I think noting the academic reputation of places like Harvard is perfectly appropriate (and, in Harvard's case, the consensus language was achieved after a great deal of debate). Quoting WP:SUBJECTIVE, which is part of the NPOV policy page (unlike WP:BOOSTERISM, which is just an essay): it is sometimes permissible to note an article subject's reputation when that reputation is widespread and informative to readers. Describing Harvard as one of the most prestigious universities in the world is little different than noting that Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest authors in the English language. That said, where I definitely agree with you is that not everywhere is a Harvard/Wellesley/Oxford/Julliard/Pomona/MIT/insert-your-top-of-its-class-pick, and it's important to keep unsubstantiated claims of reputation out where they're not supported by reliable sources. I wish it were as easy as just instituting a blanket "no mention of reputation" policy, but for places like the above examples, doing so is not only permitted but required to provide readers with the essential basic facts about the subject of the article. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 01:46, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
I agree with you shadowsettle. I think boosterism is rampant on the HED articles, and has become the norm. Yes, it does seem like most business school articles have boosterism across almost all of them. The question is, how do you address it? It would seem necessary to address it on most of the notable articles. Yet, it is hard to do so, particularly when editors are proud of their school. I tried to establish a more npov on some schools wiki's, and have had some resistance from proud students. The other alternative is to allow wiki universities to have some boosterism as the norm, and only remove egregious violations? It seems that is a better idea than trying to remove every example of boosterism as it is more feasible. For example, you were noting it is the norm on most business school wiki sites where it has become an endemic. So do you remove it from all the business school wiki university sites? Or do you accept some norms that there will be some boosterism on them all? I think there should be some kind of standards, so what is allowed on some sites is allowed on others, or what is not allowed on some sites, should not be allowed on others. For example, the boosterism article mentions not to use vague terms of praise including prestige. Yet, some editors are very articulate and convinving to allow it on some pages, for example harvard's page, but other wiki sites that want to use the word prestige on their page too and are not allowed, even if they are prestigious schools too. So I think the most eggregious examples should be fixed for sure, and what is allowed on some wiki sites should be allowed on others generally, or what is not allowed on sites, should not be allowed on others. It does not need to be universal, but there should be some standards for sure so it is more consistent what is allowed and what is not.  Mikecurry1 (talk) 03:29, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
Sdkb is right: There are a few institutions that are genuinely notable for their extraordinary reputation and it's important that we include that information just as we include any other information that is extraordinary in the lede. What is unclear is exactly how we draw the line between the articles that must include this information in the lede and those that should not. The compromise that we stumbled our way to in the lede of Harvard University was one that relied not on individual rankings or Wikipedia editors' interpretation or aggregation of rankings but one that relied on multiple independent, tertiary, and high quality sources that explicitly describe the institution as being especially reputable and held in high regard. If we can get a project-wide consensus to follow that model - which would explicitly not allow individual rankings or aggregations of rankings - then I think that might be a workable solution. ElKevbo (talk) 05:56, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
The first thing to note is I think everyone so far can agree that things should be more consistent, so I think it's sensible we come up with some kind of consensus here and apply that as far as reasonable to make sure that there's not the current disparity between "equally reputable" university articles
@ElKevbo and Sdkb: I can see how there are merits to saying somewhere has a noteworthy reputation. However, I still don't think that's something Wikipedia articles should be getting involved with. Firstly, as WP:BOOSTERISM explains: "Allow the facts to speak for themselves and let the reader decide", why can't it just be left to the rankings, alumni/ae etc. to talk about it. Now whilst a good reputation could be a fact, is a relatively subjective one. And this importantly means anyone can claim it. All it takes is for editors to find the word leading or prestigious in its Forbes review or on Times. Faced with comments that "that's a regional statement" it will move elsewhere; such as to the Atlantic and do a bit of interpretation; it isn't hard to find an independent local paper that will call the local university prestigious in some regard. What will end up happening is any leeway on this will be used to to make any and every university article talk about being prestigious.
The wording that is left after some compromise would be a clear breaking of the WP:MOS's WP:PEACOCK guideline, so I don't see how it can be done in a non-peacock-y way.
Also note the some articles need it, and "well use WP:COMMONSENSE" arguments don't work, because this means different things to different people. Coming from the UK there was a noticeable absence in Sdkb's list of Cantab Toronto etc., and I would argue that Wellesley, Pomona and the like have next to zero international reputation, and Julliard may only have one within its subject, so would have to clarify that it's domestic/subject specific, which opens up the terms to far more articles. Should University of the Highlands and Islands be "the most prestigious university in the Highlands" (it's the only one)? Should University of Glasgow be the one of the most prestigious in Scotland, does that count as a country if we're limiting the regions to a national level? I feel like any leeway on prestige risks ignoring the foundations of What Wikipedia is: an attempt to be a neutral source of knowledge, that presents the facts not a viewpoint.
I would say that if something is really a noteworthy as any article will claim, the reader will know that, as that what noteworthiness means (unless of course this is expanded to a regional level, but if its not on an international level what's the point).
@Mikecurry1: I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this is a problem, however I disagree that (a) it's unfixable (b) we shouldn't try.
  • Imagine if every country's "proud" citizens wrote that their country was prestigious. Now I imagine you could agree that the USA has some prestige, maybe the UK? Now someone from Russia edits it. They say Russia is prestigeous. Are they wrong? Probably not. Okay, then Monaco edits it, they have some claim to prestige. Where does it end, and what's the point of having it. Obviously, this would be reverted, so why shouldn't it be here.
  • Now take an article on some form of mumbo-jumbo, whatever you find most ridiculous (anti-vax, homeopathy, herbal medicine, science, whatever viewpoint you're coming from, I'm not trying to offend anyone here), you will find constant attempts to undermine the NPOV and basis in reliable facts. Should they stop too just because some impassioned editors won't give up? Again, I, the editors of such pages, and I hope you too, would say no.
@Everyone, what this all boils down to: Why should uni articles be given a free pass on WP:PUFFERY? Things people might want to say can easily be said in other ways, and any opening in a submarine hatch lets a lot of water flow in very fast. Shadowssettle(talk) 09:06, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
To address your specific examples, no, of course University of the Highlands and Islands shouldn't say that it's the most prestigious university in the Highlands if it's the only one; it should say that it's the only one. And if the University of Glasgow is widely considered the premier university in Scotland, I'd be fine with its article saying so. (Note the "widely considered", as it's a key phrase — we're talking about reputation, not dictating prestige directly.) As someone unfamiliar with Scottish higher education, that's probably the number one thing I'm wondering when I go to that page, and I shouldn't have to dig or read between the lines to figure it out (see WP:SPADE). More generally, I'm fine with mentions of reputation being put in context of the domain under consideration. Julliard's article says It is widely regarded as one of the world's leading drama, music and dance schools, with some of the most prestigious arts programs, which sounds good to me, and I'd have no problem with e.g. CalTech saying that it's widely considered the premier technology-focused research university on the U.S. West Coast. Are there valid concerns about a slippery slope? Yes, of course. But that's true with tons of different aspects of Wikipedia. We should do what we always do — stick to what reliable sources say, and use extra scrutiny/higher standards in areas like this one where WP:NPOV issues are a high risk. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 21:05, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
I apologise for my time delayed comments, as my edits should show in on a mobile right now, so I'm responding a little out of step, please excuse any confusion it might cause. Shadowssettle(talk) 23:44, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
I can agree with this iff we're going to let prestige into the articles, that these maybe should be ones that get that coverage (Julliard and CalTech, not Glas necessarily). I still disagree that Wikipedia should be telling you what's prestigious, but that quickly devolves. I get that there's a strong argument that we shouldn't be worried about that bad things could be done because of one thing that might need to be done, however, it is this is the very problem uni coverage is faced with, and always will be unless there are strict guidelines, hence the view that it needs to put out completely. As I have explained more extensively under Robminchin's comment below Whilst I personally am open to some clear, concise and undisputable metric for determining prestige from purely reliable sources without WP:OR interpretations of them, I doubt any can exist. I am yet to see anything here that would safely differentiate between universities, and anything that would protect against a biased school-touting journalist's piece being abused. I also have addressed concerns about "noteworthy smaller liberal arts colleges" and other non-notable "prestigious" institutions below. Shadowssettle(talk) 11:49, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
  • Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, and others are prestigious and are regarded as highly prestigious by neutral coverage. I agree lesser known schools should not be fill with self-promotion, however saying Yale is prestigious is stating a verifiable and very important fact.--Hippeus (talk) 10:39, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
    I'll thank you to stop mentioning Yale in the same breath as Harvard. EEng 15:14, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
@EEng: Harvard Yale Harvard Yale Harvard Yale, but seriously, no need to bring school rivalries here Shadowssettle(talk) 15:19, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
You may expect a visit from the Trileteral Commission. EEng 15:25, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
I'm a little lost there (is this some Yale Alum thing related to the Trilateral Commission). By the way, do you have any thoughts on the matter at hand, academic boosterism? (apart from that Yale should be allowed and Harvard shouldn't?) Shadowssettle(talk) 15:56, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
You'll find out soon enough. Don't call them, they'll call you. EEng 16:24, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
@Hippeus: Where does that fact end though? If Yale is and Harvard is, then Princeton should probably be. If all those are, probably Penn. Okay, now editors from Cornell and Dartmouth have sources to claim theirs as well, so the Ivy League. Okay, if Dartmouth, a liberal arts college is, then probably Amherst and Wesleyan. Where is the line drawn? Just saying you find some of these prestigious (and I would agree) doesn't mean the article should say it. If you read through WP:BOOSTERISM and WP:PUFFERY, it's much better to state the facts: alumni (presidents etc.), rankings, then go into some vague notion of prestige. I am still waiting on someone to respond on the underlying point of what prestige should mean. Shadowssettle(talk) 10:43, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
If graduates receive significantly higher wages than run-of-the-mill schools, then it is a hard metric for prestigious. It does need to end at some point, but to omit that Yale/Harvard/Oxford are highly prestigious is to omit one of the most defining aspects of these institutions.--Hippeus (talk) 10:48, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
Some of the ones you mention don't necessarily earn the highest in the country, with Havering College having a specifically highly earning course in the UK, despite having no reputation (it's an industry-associated course so is an anomaly).[1] Also, these change year on year, and often other institutions outrank those institutions.[2] It might be a start to a way of doing it, but I would disagree that their prestige is their defining characteristic, rather their impact of society, which may be an alternative? Shadowssettle(talk) 10:57, 12 April 2020 (UTC)


@Shadowssettle: Yes, i agree. That was the problem I was trying to bring up is the grey line, such as if Harvard is using it then soon other colleges will want to use it, Amherst, Wellsley, etc. I think there was this problem with editors arguing about using the word prestigous on UC Berkeley's site. Some editors wanted to use that word prestigous, and apparently an editor thought it was unneeded as boosterism. I personally did not want to enter that argument of whether prestigious should or should not be used on UC Berkeley's wiki page or not because harvard is able to use it. For me I would think rankings are better than words like prestigious as a standard. Whteher rankings are used or not, I think generally some kind of boosterism standards should be in place. For what is used on one school, should be allowed for others, or what is not allowed on one school site, should not be allowed on others. I did not mean to say that it's boosterism is unfixable and we shouldn't try, as I do not believe that. Rather I was trying to say the most feasabile path is to fix eggregious points, as there are so much resistance from editors and to create standards across what is allowed and is not, so it can be more universally applied. What some people may consider boosterism (ie using prestigious on Wellsley or Amherst's site, many others do not). Fix the grey line issue. I agree with what Elkablo said too, universities should be allowed to put what is notably reputable or extraordinary about the school including in the lead, for example stanford is notable for entrepreneurship, without considering this boosterism. Perhaps, we may want to discuss boosterism standards that could be used across schools?Mikecurry1 (talk) 14:24, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
@Mikecurry1: I generally agree with your points, the grey line issue is the one of the leading problems, and I'd like to break these points down into two parts:
  • Mentioning that actual underlying point and facts is a better solution "Harvard has 8 US presidents who have graduated from the university", "Stanford has been the birthplace for many of the world's leading technology companies" (or something along the lines of entrepreneurialism as you said) might be a better way that cuts down on the direct WP:PUFFERY. The point that has been made by others that "the reputation must be there and it's a disservice not to mention it" could find some common ground with this, as again just saying that it should be there clearly ignores the points in WP:BOOSTERISM without addressing them.
  • Any consensus formed here should be reflected in the guidelines and advice on the subject. You're entirely right that there is needs to be a standard used across schools. There is currently quite some disparity across articles, and its important that whatever consensus is reached here it is reflected and applied consistently (I brought up points about specific universities earlier). Shadowssettle(talk) 15:16, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
  • All the American universities are too recent to be considered prestigious. In the English-speaking world, only two universities can really lay claim to such an appellation, and one would hope that neither would feel it needful (and the merits of some of their constituent colleges and courses are debatable anyway). Seriously though, we try to remove prestigious, illustrious, innovative, renowned, award-winning, exceptional and such words from other articles, so why do we need them for universities? Edwardx (talk) 20:15, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
@Edwardx: Totally agree with all that.except that tarned Oxbridge elitism! However, right now it seems to endemic, even on the two universities you said didn't need it, hence the need for some consensus here on some form; especially as there's disagreement among the editors here. If you know any other project-uninvolved editors who have been involved with WP:PUFFERY you might want to get them involved (you're ancient compared to most of the editors here apart from User:ElKevbo, a compliment not an insult), I feel like this was the whole reason WP:BOOSTER was made, and it's strong message has slowly decayed over time Shadowssettle(talk) 20:26, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
We should approach these articles like we do all other articles: We summarize what the best available sources say about the subject. For a few subjects, numerous sources stress something exemplary or unusual about the subject e.g., highly prestigious, oldest, most wealthy, first to do __. It's POV for an editor to omit that information simply because he or she disagrees or find it distasteful.
I also think it's disingenuous or naive to think that some institutions aren't so well-known or held in such high regard that their reputation is one of their most noteworthy characteristics. Yes, it's dumb as hell that so many people focus so much on Harvard; sometimes, I genuinely feel bad for some of our colleagues who work there who can't make the smallest decision without The Chronicle of Higher Education breathlessly reporting it as the future of all colleges and universities. But that is indeed the reality and hiding that from readers because we don't like it is malpractice.
To me, the question is how and where we set the bar for including this kind of information in the lede of articles. As stated above, I think that if we can set the bar really high, get project-wide consensus, and then place the onus on editors who want to include this kind of information then we'll be in better shape. ElKevbo (talk) 21:19, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: very well put. The one caveat I'd add is that, when characterizing reputation, we should try to characterize reputation among a slightly more educated audience than just the general public. E.g. most people on the street probably couldn't tell you what Julliard is, but that doesn't make its academic reputation any less valid. Same goes with top-tier small liberal arts colleges, which are pretty much unknown to the general public but whose academic reputations are comparable to Ivy League schools when it comes to employers/grad schools/etc. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 21:44, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
When we're discussing colleges and universities in broad terms (i.e., not specific departments or programs) then we're in very well-trod territory that is the subject of a lot of scholarship. So we should be relying on that scholarship, particularly secondary and tertiary sources that explicitly and expertly synthesize multiple sources or many years of information. That keeps us out of the mess of trying to judge or use specific rankings or create our own judgments using rankings. That also keeps us out of the mess of trying to keep up-to-date with changing rankings, surveys, or popular press accounts that typically aren't grounded in scholarship, rigor, or history. ElKevbo (talk) 22:20, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
This happened whilst I made my last post, so I'll address it here: if you have an exact bar of how to use these then go ahead and propose it: using academic papers does seem to make some sense. However ignoring rankings could be seen as WP:OR when they're published by publicly (if not academically) respected sources. Shadowssettle(talk) 22:32, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
@Sdkb: See this is where I disagree strongly. Wikipedia shouldn't be trying to spread that institutions are prestigious, that aren't, well, widely considered prestigious; this leads to a massively slippery slope. The list given is rather loosely defined, and at least to me seems to open up a whole can of worms. Shadowssettle(talk) 22:29, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
As I said above, valid concerns about a slippery slope with more borderline cases isn't a justification for leaving out information in cases where it's clearly warranted. And Wikipedia is about compiling information, not just about reflecting back the opinions of people you'd meet on the street. We can't just say "oh, my next door neighbor has never heard of Williams, so that must mean it doesn't have any academic reputation worth noting". To do that would be to introduce a huge unfair bias against smaller or more specialized schools. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 23:28, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: There's no need to call opposing views names, let's keep this WP:CIVIL. It is neither naïve nor disingenuous to say that it might be preferable to address reputation through actual hard facts and statistics. Instead of repeating the same point, it might be helpful to address the actual suggestions brought up here in a collaborative fashion. If you strongly disagree with them, then argue the point on what you think is wrong with them. Notably personal anecdotes don't help.[citation needed]
On the point of whether we can set the bar high, this could be an option if the consensus ends up there. However, there are two things to note:
  • Just saying "set the bar high" doesn't achieve the goal: we would need to explicitly and unequivocally explain exactly what that bar is. As User:Sdkb notes, some might think institutions that don't actually have a widespread public reputation should still be noted as having a reputation, whilst others (myself included) see this as part of the problem trying to be addressed here. Also, any such bar would need to be applicable in such a way that article's can be handles under a fair and just metric.
  • This still doesn't get around the concerns of breaking Wikipedia's guidelines on WP:PUFFERY and the whole explanation of what shouldn't be on university pages on WP:BOOSTER, which seems to have been designed specifically to stop this argument.
At least I feel we all agree that whatever is consensus should be applied more consistently, so we don't have the YalePrinceton disparity. Thanks! Shadowssettle(talk) 22:29, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
What or who is this "Princeton" of which you speak? EEng 00:10, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
A lawless place only accessible by a creaky old train. Shadowssettle(talk) 09:07, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
I followed your "lawless" link (re Princeton's attempt to establish a law school) and found Previously, in the 1820s, an attempt was made to organize teaching in law, but this plan ended with the death of the designated professor, which I momentarily misread as "ended in the death of the designated professor", and I thought, oh dear. EEng 16:24, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
I addressed WP:PUFFERY above with "widely regarded", although I think my comment got buried because the conversation had already moved further down the page. WP:BOOSTER is just an essay, so it doesn't have much weight compared to policies/guidelines. And I still think WP:SUBJECTIVE addresses the question here more directly. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 23:20, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
I don't see how widely regarded really helps the the argument about why the consensus should be what you've stated, but it would make sense if does end up as such. I've tried to explain the issues with the ideas here, could you please address those? It doesn't seem to solve the issue hence the conversation continues: can't we just state the claimaint as the WP:MOS suggests and as rankings allow us to. Or what's the issue with using similar but more fact-centric metrics like presidents/alum, companies founded etc.
I am well aware that it's just an essay, otherwise this conversation would never have started here, as it would be in a much more prominent place given the impact proper guidelines have. Shadowssettle(talk) 23:35, 12 April 2020 (UTC)

We're not going to come to a consensus on a subjective measure of prestige, using subjective piecemeal statements from a variety of sources - none of which actually quantify or define prestige. Just ridiculous. I think the most shocking of all statements on this board comes from the highly pedigreed ElKevbo who claims the definition of a truly prestigious university is one that is "so extradorinary and genuinely notable for their extraordinary reputation". Let's have you write a mathematical proof on that one Kev and get back to us. Those who fall into ElKevbo's camp very clearly believe that we should form a subjective opinion based on ... our highly subjective opinions of the most opinionated of all matters: prestige. We are here to provide a basin of encyclopedic information, not to force opinions down people's throats. Some of the discussion on this board worries me that Wikipedia is morphing into a 8-chan like community that seeks to dig its heels into a polarized world view. Stop doing that.

I think we can keep this very straightforward. If we agree we want to highlight a university's excellence, editors may reference overall national and global rankings. Unlike Kev's model - "so extradorinary and genuinely notable for their extraordinary reputation", university rankings are put together by Higher Ed experts and data scientists who are paid to develop well-thought out and quantifiable methods for stratifying universities. Any claim that these rankings are "arbitrary" should not be reassuring to your argument, but a complete contradiction to your insistence on Wikipedia defining the "prestigious" universities of the world. XXeducationexpertXX (talk) 21:58, 12 April 2020 (UTC)

I don't know where the line is but at some point misrepresenting other editors' positions and referring to them with blatant disrespect and condescension crosses into a personal attack. At a minimum, you're ensuring that other editors disregard your own opinions because we can't trust you. So cut it out. ElKevbo (talk) 22:15, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
Those are your words copy and pasted and there is absolutely nothing there that constitutes personal attack. What you suggest is in essence is normalizing WP:POV, which is what makes the conversation so incredibly ridiculous. You are opening the door to every Ivy League school having an opening tag line of "one of the most prestigious universities". XXeducationexpertXX (talk) 22:25, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
There's a lot of WP:UNCIVIL going around here, from using "Let's have you write a mathematical proof" which might be seen as patronising, to calling the opposing view "disingenuous or naive". Can we please keep this WP:FUN? Shadowssettle(talk) 22:37, 12 April 2020 (UTC)

My feeling is that it's is impossible to set an objective standard for when a university may be considered prestigious, this it is better to let the facts speak for themselves. If we rely on third party sources calling something prestigious, them most universities will be able to find something. Certainly many sources will describe LSE, UCL, Durham, Edinburgh, Bristol, St Andrews as prestigious – and compared to an average British university they are probably right. But this way lies chaos. It is better to say that no university should be described as "prestigious" by Wikipedia – that is the sort of judgement call that Wikipedia is not supposed to make. The second part of the question of addressing this. One thing that can certainly be done is to ensure the criteria for "Good Article" prevent any article that uses prestigious or other boosterism from reaching that level. (We also need to revisit articles that were adjudged GA standard many years ago and have changed since).

Actually addressing boosterism actively in articles is exhausting (and you need to bed prepared for some name-calling from editors who are sure you are trying to do their institution down because you are from a "rival"). That is why we need absolutely clear guidelines saying that boosterism is not acceptable. If it is acceptable anywhere, editors will find a way to apply it to their article and it will be impossible to prevent all manner of problems. Robminchin (talk) 05:43, 13 April 2020 (UTC)

Whilst I completely agree with all this, I just wanted to relate this to the concerns that other editors have about something along the lines of: but there are reliable sources for this an it's unhelpful not to have it. As Robminchin notes there are reliable sources for most places having prestige, just saying that is not enough. Whilst I personally am open to some clear, concise and undisputable metric for determining prestige from purely reliable sources without WP:OR interpretations of them, I doubt any can exist. No one has yet shown one here, as far as I can see? Rather than repeating the same argument of Harvard xyz. place no-one else might think needs a prestige statement which keeps this argument circular, it might be more helpful to address the concerns of how we would create such metrics; how we can argue any interpretation of them isn't OR. Also what the issues are with the alternatives laid out here, such as using facts which convey the same meaning? I also am quite worried about dismissing the point via saying others are doing anything along the lines but my neighbour hasn't heard of. Whilst of course my neighbour hasn't heard of argument is silly, it's easy to straw-man the counterargument as often it may turn out: wait no this place actually isn't prestigious, when a place isn't prestigious enough to be widely known. If this counterargument becomes the norm as User:Robminchin explains this will quickly become the issue. Hence the need for a undisputable metric. Shadowssettle(talk) 09:07, 13 April 2020 (UTC)

This conversation was had---at length---about including mentions of prestige in the lead of Harvard's article, I argued for having an explicit and incontrovertible standard lest it become a precedent for every university to include booster language. For that, my motives were repeatedly impugned. I have nothing more to say on the matter and leave it to others to fix a mess I fought hard to avoid creating in the first place. Madcoverboy (talk) 14:08, 13 April 2020 (UTC)

Laying out the arguments[edit]

There seems to be a lot of going round in round in circles on both sides, so I thought it may help to try a different way of structuring the conversation, by laying out each individual point which can then have a point of response and a response to that. I think it would be helpful to not treat this part like a conversation, but more as a series of point and solutions/counterarguments (but hopefully more solutions). I added the insults in place already so people don't feel the need to add them. Please do add your points/solutions/counterarguments below, and ~~~ (3 * ~) any thoughts you subscribe to. (don't delete points you disagree with; how does that help)

If you find something offensive or that doesn't accurately portray your view, please see at the attempt to show how the argument develops, add you view, or change it. This isn't an attempt to bring one side over the other; if you feel it does so I apologise in advance. It's an attempt to lay out the points.


POV pushers, unrealistic about where this will end

  • It's silly to not have a comment about some of these universities being prestigious, they clearly are. It's Wikipedia's job to inform people; this is information
    • Being prestigious is a subjective quantity
      • In some cases, yes, but the institutions being discussed here clearly are.
        • Which institutions, though, what's prestigious to one source isn't to another, and how do we decide what's prestigious (continued on the other side)
    • If they're prestigious people will know
      • Not in all cases. Some institutions are only prestigious within a country or academic discipline
    • Can't we inform people of similar facts which convey the underlying message
      • Why should people have to read between the lines? WP:SPADE
        • WP:SPADE is about user discussions, hence: WP:NOTSPADE. Also, it's not reading between the lines, the prestige isn't the fact, the related facts are
          • But prestige may be a fact
  • Reliable sources note prestige; it's clearly sourceable
    • Where does this end? (continued on the other side)
    • Reliable sources can carry many glowing comments, that doesn't mean Wikipedia needs to spout them all
      • Wikipedia often covers positive reviews and the like
        • Does it need to be in the intro?
          • Yes, since it can be a defining characteristic
  • This would seem to be covered under WP:SUBJECTIVE
    • Subjective only states it is permissible
    • Where does this end? It doesn't and that's the issue (see other side)
    • Subjective is about artworks and the like, not this
      • It mentions them but it can extend wider than that
        • However, these don't need to deal with the factional inter-uni fighting allowing prestige would cause


"disingenuous or naive" reality deniers, who can't see, or choose to ignore, the obvious

  • Where is the to be drawn? I don't see how any line can be drawn that doesn't rely on WP:OR interpreting The line must be drawn here! This far! No further!
    • The line can be drawn at good sources to keep only the really prestigious ones.
      • But any leeway in sources leaves it open to being abused (see below)
      • I have yet to see any realistic proposal to show where the line is to be drawn!
    • Don't draw the line! Anywhere that is somewhat prestigeous should mention it
      • ~~anger boils~~ N O. Wikipedia shouldn't be a mass prospectus selling universities.
      • This makes it pointless. If everyone has a pony let's just not have ponies.
  • Wikipedia doesn't need to have prestige statements, it's not encyclopedic and seems tacky
    • Oh yes it does need them since it's informative. (see other side)
  • The only solution to stopping an exhaustive fight happening where it should is to not allow it at all
    • We shouldn't not do a thing because we're worried about what may happen
      • Yes we should, as there is no way to draw a line under the sand anywhere (see above)

This may not be helpful, but we can see? (note this is unlike User:Mikecurry1's attempt to find solutions which I agree we're not ready for, instead it's to find where the arguments are and actually make this followable so points aren't missed) Shadowssettle(talk) 18:21, 13 April 2020 (UTC)

Follow up[edit]

Yes, Shadowsettles thread is the primary one for these discussions on boosterism (as I understood from the heading - Boosterism, a wider perspective). It seems like a place to discuss boosterism from a broader perspective. My thread is a complimentary side textbox to this discussion, and if you have any ideas to create consistency across university articles we can brainstorm them there in a focused place on ideas, to be discussed later when we are ready. Mikecurry1 (talk) 18:50, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
These are reasonable summaries but I think it's a mistake to focus exclusively or primarily on "prestige" when there are many other similar concepts that are all similar concerns. (I think the "prestige" derail may have begun in the Harvard article but that is mostly because some of the sources explicitly focus on prestige so we used that specific word because it's what the cited source(s) used. It's actually a good example of what we should be doing in articles - following the lead of and accurately summarizing what high quality, reliable sources say.) ElKevbo (talk) 19:54, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: You mention a lot how the Harvard article is a good example of it being applied. I would be interested in an example where such work would lessen current coverage, and how and what exactly strict sources would be usable to make sure it doesn't pop up everywhere. Where would the Harvard-model end up allowing this thing into. I feel if it lets it in "everywhere" (i.e. a lot of places so most unis with any notability, say Manchester/Glasgow/name-your-place) have it then it's going to cause a lot of disagreement. Whilst there is a strong group here who don't want any prestige comments anywhere, I would say that there would be much less resentment to a policy which would limit it, could be well-defined, and we could see in action Shadowssettle(talk) 20:17, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
My preference would be to limit this kind of information in the lede to only material that has been explicitly discussed by reputable scholars and experts in independent venues e.g., not material written by the institution, journalists without education expertise, or the ranking system publications. I'm not very familiar with how our colleagues in WikiProject Medicine apply their content guideline but my ideas do seem to be very similar to how they handle medical information ("Ideal sources for biomedical material include literature reviews or systematic reviews in reliable, third-party, published secondary sources (such as reputable medical journals), recognised standard textbooks by experts in a field, or medical guidelines and position statements from national or international expert bodies.") although I freely acknowledge that there are numerous differences between these bodies of knowledge particularly their relative importance and the number of editors willing to apply the guidelines.
In practice, I think this would remove this information from the lede of many and perhaps most articles, at least for U.S. institutions (my only sphere of expertise). For example, the current version of the University of California, Berkeley includes this sentence: "Berkeley has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.[1][2][3][4][5]" I think those references aren't nearly good enough to support this kind of statement in the lede of an article. It's not a question of the sources being reliable - they are - but whether the information merits inclusion in the lede. In my opinion, if multiple experts have not explicitly written about this specific topic then it doesn't belong in the lede of an article. You could make an argument that the information could be included without any citation as it's just a summary what is already in the article but I think we're all already in broad agreement that too many editors either misunderstand that concept or they abuse it to insert boosterism into the lede.
(I also freely acknowledge that this particular example could certainly be rewritten as I'm positive that there are high quality sources that explicitly discuss the preeminence of Berkeley; the sources that are currently cited are not sufficient and the onus is on editors who want to retain or edit the information to help us find adequate sources.) ElKevbo (talk) 23:46, 13 April 2020 (UTC)


  1. ^ "CWUR 2019-2020 | Top Universities in the World". Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  2. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  3. ^ "Best Global Universities Rankings". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  4. ^ "World University Rankings 2016-2017". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  5. ^ "World Reputation Rankings 2019". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
I agree with ElKevbo that it is a mistake for articles to focus so much on prestige in the lead. ElKevbo brought up this sentence, "Berkeley has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world." I used that example with XXX in the side textbox to brainstrom solutions for. If rankings are in the lead, this is probably not the best way to explain them across articles, including that a school is in the the top 25 or 50 as well. For the most part I would prefer the lead to focus on the things the university is actually doing, their history, or what is in the article. A similar problem is occuring in sports articles too. Who is THE GOAT, Michael jordan or Lebron james? There is a predominance of focus on prestige across domains, and we need consistent standards to address this so that editors are not engaged in edit wars trying to implement changes for a more npov. And then from these academic boosterism guidelines - one article has certain expectations for what is boosterism and other articles have other expectations for what is boosterism - having consistency of standards across articles in my opinions would stop some unneeded editing wars as we can cite a consensus of what is acceptable across these articles.Mikecurry1 (talk) 03:58, 14 April 2020 (UTC)
In addition to universities being described as "prestigious", there are more insidious forms of puffery that give the impression without using the words. For example, the lead of the Durham University article used to contain the quote "Long established as the leading rival to Oxford and Cambridge" from The Times.[1] The same source could also give the quote "Durham is often described as the Oxbridge of the North",[2] a description also found in The Daily Telegraph (where Durham is "known amongst students as the Oxbridge of the North").[3] Putting this in the lead would clearly be an attempt to gain prestige by association (how many American schools are the "Harvard of the South"?), but would also be defensible as having multiple reliable sources stating that this was common usage. Robminchin (talk) 06:01, 14 April 2020 (UTC)


  1. ^ Asthana, Anushka; Sherman, Jill (1 June 2009). "Profile: Durham University". The Times.
  2. ^ Martin Birchall (19 January 2006). "Where next for... Durham graduates". The Times.
  3. ^ Katie Russell (10 June 2019). "The 10 best student cities in Britain". The Daily Telegraph.
@Robminchin: This is a really interesting point, and probably one we should address! Any consensus from this should deal with whether this should be allowed anywhere near the lead Shadowssettle(talk) 09:20, 14 April 2020 (UTC)
I don't think those sources are sufficient for information in the lede of those articles. They're reliable but that is not sufficient for inclusion anywhere in an article, particularly the lede. ElKevbo (talk) 13:47, 14 April 2020 (UTC)
@Mikecurry1: I feel prestige has become a metonym for the wider problem, it should probably be read as the wider issue of WP:BOOSTER comments, especially as there are arguments here over whether some prestige comments are even WP:BOOSTERism Shadowssettle(talk) 09:20, 14 April 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: This suggestion is interesting, I have a question: How far down would it go exactly? Can you find sufficient sources for, let's take Vanderbilt or somewhere of that level (remembering many of us are not American). I would be interested in seeing this because as I said working out how far exactly it would go and importantly seeing such a system give a clear no would go some way to calming some fears of a free for all. We would need to create a guideline that could be applied such that the work would be on article editors to find enough sufficiently appropriate sources, and until then articles would not be allowed to have such statements.
  • If such a system does work and does have quite a high lower bar so we can in general remove it apart from exceptional cases, I think that's something we might be all able to cope with.
  • If we are going to have such a system, we would need to see it in practice played out for a couple cases, some where it accepts and some where it rejects. I know rejection is hard to say, as a more comprehensive search might return sufficient results, but if you could give some where a reasonable search doesn't find any that would be really helpful (sorry for asking you to do more stuff, it's just this what your pushing for)
  • Examples would also be required so we can all understand the system; and allow us to try and apply it fairly as editors to other articles.
The next two points deal with the one thing the pro-exclusionists have been clearly expressing again and again, which this can't be solved without addressing. "The fights and school editors bringing this to lower and lower levels" is one of the most important problems here, and it needs to be addressed in a strong and effective manner before any agreement would be reached. The following bullet points address it.
  • To repeat, such system would need clear formalisation, and we might want to try to see how we can form a community-accepted guideline (not just essay) we can apply without prejudice or risk of reversion-and-fight ("see guideline" would be sufficient) to reduce squabbles this will cause.
  • There should be a [[Wikipedia:WikiProject Higher education/Request for Boosterism Discussion]|} (WP:HED/RfBD if you will), a noticeboard where any boosterism-specific discussions can be brought up so we can handle them. This would just be a WikiProject page so it wouldn't be much of a problem. Any application of these is going to flood talk pages with arguments, and possibly WT:HED would just be one long stream of separate sections for each one. It would make sense for a central noticeboard which editors can monitor to make sure that other editors can get involved if there are issues with WP:POV editors trying to box them into a corner and not have the backing to help fight it.
If those points could be addressed, it might go a long way towards forming consensus here. Shadowssettle(talk) 09:20, 14 April 2020 (UTC)
@Robminchin, Mikecurry1, Sdkb, EEng, and Edwardx: Any thoughts on this as a suggestion? Any strong disagreement? It would be nice to get this to a consensus rather than a dead thread as it's still a large problem across university articles. Please see the arguments laid out above to avoid this circling, so you can address the concerns of the other side. Shadowssettle(talk) 20:02, 16 April 2020 (UTC)
  • Sorry, this thread is too long for me to read at this point, and I'd rather unengage than engage without having read others' comments. My perspective from earlier, that characterizing reputation is at time appropriate, is still my view. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 20:51, 16 April 2020 (UTC)
  • Whatever ElKevbo says, I'm behind it. EEng 20:54, 16 April 2020 (UTC)
  • I still don't think we can make a distinction between some universities that are allowed to have 'boosterish' text and others that do not. There simply is not going to be a clear dividing line. And even if we can come up with something that seems satisfactory to us, it is unlikely to be satisfactory to all of the editors who are alumni of institutions just below the dividing line. Any rule that allows some institutions to be called prestigious and not others is going to have to be absolutely rigorous and robust to any perception of bias (including pro-western bias), and I'm not convinced that that is possible. Robminchin (talk) 21:32, 16 April 2020 (UTC)
  • As an addendum, from a philosophical viewpoint, if the subjective reputation of a university is important enough to warrant putting in the lead for a subset of elite universities, it is worth mentioning for all universities. I have not seen any arguments (although I may have missed some) that set out why reputation is a more valuable piece of information for Harvard or Oxford than it is for Edinburgh or UCL. Even if we can find multiple sources saying that Oxford is prestigious, the equivalent for another university where sources differ would not be too omit the information but to state both sides – that it is considered prestigious by some sources, that it is a member of Group X, that other sources don't call it prestigious, etc. (We actually already have something like this with regard to whether LSE and King's College London are considered part of the golden triangle). Robminchin (talk) 05:23, 19 April 2020 (UTC)
@Robminchin: The idea here would be to allow it for any university where independent (i.e. one not in any way affiliated or published by the university, which should already be the case), academic sources discuss its prestige (not its ranking) with serious coverage (similar to notability guidelines in this regard, just an off-hand mention is insufficient). Only allowing academic sources prevents the question of is this local newspaper enough for me to make a claim of how great my school is or this newspaper does say it's well-respected when talking about an alumn, that's enough right for me to say it's the best in the world?, or any WP:SYNTHesis of rankings to claim that being in the top 100 means it's highly prestigious.
This would take exactly which are sufficiently prestigious enough out of editors hands and into academia, much like on WP:MEDicine and WP:SCIENCE project where they have academic standards for contentious issues (see COVID-19 right now). This would be an attempt to unite the ideas behind on one side WP:SUBJECTIVE and the need to mention what many not-affiliated editors consider pretty much basic top-priority information the encyclopedia would be incomplete without, and the opposing desire to make sure Wikipedia is not a WP:SOAPbox or a marketing tool, by just keeping it to where there is a studied and independently noteworthy subject. If UCL, LSE, etc. have papers on them, (as I would imagine they might given I'm sure there was a recent study saying that most of Russel Group aren't statistically more so except..., although this may not actually cover the topic, reading sources would be required). This doesn't set a bottom bar for exactly which universities would be allowed, as any such would be both WP:OR and a wrong assumption of power by WP:HED. Adding this kind of requirement seems like a sensible test we can try to consistently apply.
Note, it would seem to require three further things if it's going to work
  • It's needs to be well-defined and explained. We'll need to update WP:UNIGUIDE with this, or even have a separate article summarised there clearly laying out:
    • What the consensus is across the project, and how to apply it
    • Why the consensus is as such, what were the arguments and how have they been addressed
    • Why it's important to apply things evenly
    • What Wikipedia (articles about universities) is not
  • We need it to operate under "POV unless sourced", removing any comments until an editor has found sufficient sources.
  • We need to apply it. Personally, as I've said, setting up a project noticeboard for this (i.e. either WP:HED/ABN academic boosterism noticeboard or WP:HED/ABfD for discussion or whatever) I think would be key to making sure editors involved in such conflicts can get more not-affiliated sources for the discussion; I know I would be happy to follow such a noticeboard, and I'd hope many here would, as it's the largest issue facing this project. This could also help editors bring up other concerns over less-direct forms of boosterism (by association etc.)
I understand that this isn't perfect, but it should be a much better approach to the current "whatever the old consensus was don't you dare change it I will revert you to hell" system in place, and it should be something we might be able to form a consensus around here.
@Robminchin, Mikecurry1, and ElKevbo: (etc. I think everyone else has become uninvolved) Is everyone okay with this idea? Shadowssettle(talk) 08:26, 19 April 2020 (UTC)
There are plenty of studies using Russell Group membership as a proxy for prestige/elite status, so this is basically an open invitation for every university in the Russell Group to be described as prestigious. And according to the Bolivar study (which I think is the one you were referring to) virtually all of the pre-1992 universities in the UK form a single cluster in their analysis of elitism with the Russell Group (excluding Oxbridge). This just seems like an "everyone gets prizes" approach. It would be far better to not mention prestige or elite status or anything of that nature and WP:Let the reader decide. This is not medicine or another branch of science where there can be an authoritative, correct answer – which universities are prestigious in a particular study will depend on how prestigious is defined, so remains subjective. We should not try to make this into an objective, encyclopedic fact. Robminchin (talk) 20:21, 19 April 2020 (UTC)
Stop being right! Although I'm sure the argument coming from the other side is maybe they should be able to mention it. The frustrating thing is that without consensus no one wins, with some articles now much worse then they should be on prestige, and others those in favour may view as being able to have prestige comments that don't, all the while other boosterism we can all agree is bad still remains. Argh! We keep on coming back to the idea of using facts (like presidents, impact, historical figures, schools of though or discoveries, companies started, etc.) and as you say, letting the reader decide. The response will again be WP:SUBJECTIVE and the reader shouldn't have to read between the lines.
I think we can all agree that whatever is consensus should be applied consistently and without prejudice, so it's frustrating we can't find one. My suggestion would be if someone could get some uninvolved senior editors here to bring some context from the rest of the encyclopedia, which might help force a consensus? I'm not sure it won't just bring more arguments? Anyway thanks for you thoughts! Shadowssettle(talk) 20:47, 19 April 2020 (UTC)
I will not agree to an omission of very well sourced, pertinent information from the lede of articles simply because some editors dislike it. If we have a problem with editors using low quality sources or no sources at all then we can certainly tighten up and enforce our standards; it would also be helpful if we could clarify those standards and provide good (and bad) examples.
A dedicated noticeboard will not work; this project is way too small to support that. It would be better to rely on the existing noticeboards once we have a firm consensus.
We need to develop one or more solid proposals that we can take to the larger community through an RfC to determine if this project-wide consensus. I'd be happy to help draft something that represents my opinion and recommendations. ElKevbo (talk) 21:35, 19 April 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: As I've stated repeatedly, I would be very interested in you doing a draft guideline/essay on a new project policy.
It's easy to dismiss others concerns as simply them not liking it; but that is not their point (if it were then it would be sensible to dismiss the view) and their concerns are valid: should this information be in the lead. That's a very different point to whether it should be in the article, and keeping to unarguable hard facts in the lead seems like a sensible way to avoid this issue.
At the same time, I can easily see the point that these institutions do have strong reputations, and avoiding that could seem incomplete, and attempts to put it there through other facts could also allow boosterism in the cherry picking of which facts are in the lead. Further, why should we force the reader to read between the lines by making them infer the reputation, shouldn't we just state it if it is a crucial and widely respected part of a particular institution's character? So yes, your points are well taken.
I think it would be more productive rather than continue to dismiss others' concerns, to instead discuss them in a more constructive manner. Despite my continued view that these sort of words should be avoided in the lead, I am happy to form a consensus where reputation information in the lead is restricted to academic sources as you've been suggesting.
It would be great to see a draft! However, I hope you realise that such final guideline will probably have other editors who might disagree on the details, so it may not end up being exactly your proposals.
I am glad you agree that it's important to have well-defined guidelines with a clear explanation; this is quite an important step to avoiding the current problems. Any further points of contention could be discussed once we have a draft to debate over. Thanks for offering to spend the time writing the draft! Shadowssettle(talk) 09:01, 20 April 2020 (UTC)
To answer the question "Further, why should we force the reader to read between the lines by making them infer the reputation, shouldn't we just state it if it is a crucial and widely respected part of a particular institution's character" – because that is what Wikipedia's Manual of Style cautions us to do at WP:PUFFERY. We shouldn't forget in this debate that editor consensus at the page or project level cannot override Wikipedia policy. Robminchin (talk) 04:29, 22 April 2020 (UTC)

To clarify, I am not opposed to the inclusion of "very well sourced, pertinent information", but such information must be presented in a way that is not WP:PUFFERY. For example (and following the example of Bob Dylan given at WP:PUFFERY, rather than saying "The history and influence of the University of Oxford has made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world" (as it says currently, with references to THE rankings), we could say "A cluster analysis of British universities in 2015 found that Oxford (along with Cambridge) 'emerge[d] as an elite tier'" (with a reference to Bolivar 2015). Other high-quality references, similarly framed, could also be included, but I think it is important that we avoid saying a university is "prestigious", "elite", etc., in the editorial voice and confine such statements to direct quotes. I also think we should make it clear that references to the prestige of a group to which a university belongs (Ivy League, Russell Group, etc.) may be made (in similar conditions to the above) in the article on that group but should not be included in articles on universities that are members of that group. Robminchin (talk) 23:00, 23 April 2020 (UTC)

  • Checking in. Hi all – I just skimmed over some of the more recent conversation, although this thread and the one below are still ridiculously sprawled. Once those of you most involved manage to agree on some kind of standard/guideline to put forward for a more formal !vote, it'd be helpful to get pinged. Regarding some of the recent discussion, I see a lot of emphasis being placed on restricting the types of sources that can be used to determine reputation. While I very much agree that we need to disallow lower-quality or booster-esque sources, I'm concerned that we may throw out the baby with the bathwater and that this may have adverse consequences particularly for smaller and more specialized schools (e.g. Wellesley, Julliard) that have academic reputations in their domains equalling or surpassing those of large schools but haven't had dozens of books written about them to scour for citations the way large schools have. I will not support any standard that would force us to remove the clearly-warranted characterizations of reputation for those sorts of schools. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 03:45, 24 April 2020 (UTC)
I just looked at the lead for Wellesley College and there is nothing objectionable there. The lead for Juilliard School contains WP:PEACOCK terms and WP:WEASEL words and should be re-worded whatever is decided on guidelines here. In general, however, if the reputations of the smaller colleges are not as widely known and written about (which is true), then they are objectively less notable than those of the larger universities. If there aren't academic studies on their reputation, then any characterisation of their reputation is based on non-expert opinion and cannot be "clearly-warranted". Limiting mentions of reputation to a description of what has been found in comparative studies in peer-reviewed literature (which would be the gold standard) or even to a description of what is said in authoritative academic works might imply that articles that mention reputation based on a WP:SYNTHESIS of articles in newspapers such as Juilliard have to be changed, but these articles should be changed anyway. Robminchin (talk) 16:54, 24 April 2020 (UTC)

Follow up follow up[edit]

Hi, it seems this has kind of stalled, despite agreement on at least the point that there should be a consistent guideline to stop current issues, and the seeming approach of some kind of consensus to discuss. @ElKevbo: You said you were interested in drafting a guideline, can I ask if you're still interested in/currently undertaking this. I understand you might be WP:BUSY, so if you're no longer interested/able, it might be good for us to begin a discussion-led proposal instead. Shadowssettle(talk) 07:57, 14 May 2020 (UTC)

Yes, I'll try to make time to work on this tonight. I've been extremely busy and distracted lately - this is a helluva time to work in a university teaching center as nearly everyone is asking us for help at the same time! - but this will be a good way to spend time on a different kind of interesting and meaningful problem. ElKevbo (talk) 18:53, 14 May 2020 (UTC)
No rush, I was just wondering if you were interested still; it'd be a shame for all of this to have been for naught, so if you weren't interested I'd (the horror) have given it a shot by doing a starting draft. Shadowssettle(talk) 20:17, 14 May 2020 (UTC)

Draft RfC created[edit]

@Shadowssettle, Robminchin, Sdkb, Madcoverboy, XXeducationexpertXX, EEng, Edwardx, Mikecurry1, and Hippeus: I have drafted an RfC at User:ElKevbo/sandbox; please edit it or discuss it in Talk if you think something needs to be changed especially if the draft doesn't accurately reflect your opinion. I had to make a lot of compromises and omit a lot of nuance to keep it short enough for other editors to want to read (but the entire discussion is included as a link). ElKevbo (talk) 00:11, 15 May 2020 (UTC)

@Fortunafavetfortibus101 and Drevolt: You have also indicated a specific interest in this topic so we'd welcome your participation. Please note that at this point we're trying to write a concise summary of the discussion and viable options that the rest of the Wikipedia community can discuss so we can determine if there is any project-wide consensus on this topic. Thanks! ElKevbo (talk) 00:19, 15 May 2020 (UTC)
Looks like a great start. The policies section should include WP:PUFFERY and WP:NPOV, which apply whatever we choose here. I would prefer to make it explicit in options two and three that the presentation of well-sourced content must still be consistent with these, but that isn't strictly necessary. Robminchin (talk) 01:35, 15 May 2020 (UTC)
Done. ElKevbo (talk) 13:56, 17 May 2020 (UTC)
Is a separate question needed on whether it is every appropriate for "prestigious" (or synonyms) to be used in the editorial voice, i.e. "Unnamed Academy is one of America's elite universities" rather than "multiple sources identify Unnamed Academy as one of America's elite universities"? Robminchin (talk) 01:46, 15 May 2020 (UTC)
I don't know but I hope that the discussion would let us know if the issue is clear or if this needs to be explicitly raised. ElKevbo (talk) 13:56, 17 May 2020 (UTC)
ElKevbo, thank you for taking the initiative to make the draft and for pinging us. I added a link to NPOV and tweaked the third option a bit to even out the lengths, but overall it looks good. I think general reputation, prestige, or relative ranking(s) is a pretty fair way of summarizing what we're talking about, but we should be careful when titling pages or sharing invites to the RfC. I think "general reputation" or "academic reputation" is a much better way to describe the question, and I will object if the more loaded term "prestige" is used alone in its stead. Regards, {{u|Sdkb}}talk 09:28, 15 May 2020 (UTC)
Agreed; this goes far beyond "prestige." ElKevbo (talk) 13:59, 17 May 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: Thanks for the work! I've not really participated in non-move-related RfCs so I'm wondering how this gets expanded: should the proposals be beefed up here and possibly split up, should "ammendments" be added here and voted on simultaneously, or should we decide on a direction and then work out the finer details. For example, I would prefer P1, but P2 seems like a reasonable compromise, so I would be more interested in what P2 really means...
For example, it would seem to me that some of the more contentious issues for P2 "pro-exclusion" (I don't talk for Robminchin, but their previous points suggested they saw this as a problem) people is what level of academic sourcing is required to make P2 stringent:
  • When does a comment about prestige become worthy of the lead. If a paper says off-hand "prestigious institutions like UC Santa Barbara" I doubt that's sufficient, but where is the line?
I would propose we draw the line at it being the primary topic, however I would prefer a more experienced view
  • When does a comment relate to a university enough? If a paper says "UK universities are prestigious across the world" I think we can all agree that shouldn't allow BPP to claim prestige, but this gets far more murky for a paper an increasing scale of places to groups. Should a paper on Russel Group prestige be sufficient for the individual institutions if their relative prestige is not individually analysed?
I would propose we only allow articles on group prestige to be notable enough for the lead if the institution has significant coverage in the piece. Equivalently, this could be done by excluding group prestige and seeing it as individual coverage as covered by the first point.
  • Which papers are academic/trustworthy enough?
Differences in these details could lead to strong differences in support for proposals, so it's something we might want to address how to address. Other than that, good job! I was wondering if this discussion, or at least a laying out of the arguments, should be moved to the RfC in some form to ensure the same points aren't reiterated. Shadowssettle(talk) 12:09, 15 May 2020 (UTC)
Those are all good questions! I am skeptical that we can make the draft RfC much longer and more detailed to address them all while still making it accessible to other editors who aren't immersed in this topic already. I've tried to provide some direction with the language used in some of the possible responses (e.g., "very high quality sources," "studied by scholars and written about by journalists who focus specifically on this topic"). I know that's not very satisfying but does it make sense? ElKevbo (talk) 14:03, 17 May 2020 (UTC)
@ElKevbo: Sorry for the delay in responding, but just wanted to say that this looks really good to me so far. Thank you for drafting this. I'm a bit busy in real life at the moment, but I can try to give more substantive feedback and contribute in the near future if needed. Drevolt (talk) 07:02, 17 May 2020 (UTC)

If there are no significant objections, I will open the RfC in a few days. In preparation, I am adding a new section to the draft listing the venues where notifications will be posted; feel free to make suggestions and ask questions. ElKevbo (talk) 21:11, 20 May 2020 (UTC)

@Shadowssettle, Robminchin, Sdkb, Madcoverboy, XXeducationexpertXX, EEng, Edwardx, Mikecurry1, Hippeus, Fortunafavetfortibus101, and Drevolt: I have opened the RfC at the bottom of this Talk page and posted a brief, neutral request for participation at the following locations: Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Higher education, Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Schools, Wikipedia Talk:Manual of Style/Lead section, Wikipedia Talk:Manual of Style/Words to watch, Wikipedia Talk:Neutral point of view.
How you participate in the discussion is, of course, up to you. However, I collegially and respectfully request and recommend that we keep our comments very brief and minimal so other editors who have not yet participated will feel welcome to bring some new viewpoints to the discussion; most of us have already said quite a bit on this topic and it's all still here in this Talk page for others to review.
Thanks for all of your help with this! ElKevbo (talk) 04:04, 24 May 2020 (UTC)
It is with all due modesty, yet without fear of contradiction, that I say that my comment is about as brief and minimal as they come. EEng 04:12, 24 May 2020 (UTC)

Boosterism Standards[edit]

To keep this discussion moving forward constructively, I am starting a new thread on the specific discuss boosterism standards. (The last thread is on a broader conversation about boosterism, and so could get off topic from the development of specific standards to use across wikipedia). The idea was raised by several authors that many university pages have some form of boosterism and yet others university pages are not allowed these similar descriptions, so "where is the line drawn?" The question for this thread is do you think boosterism standards are a good idea? And if it is a good idea, to brainstorm ideas here that can be consistently applied across university wiki pages to address boosterism?

Some examples of boosterism to brainstrom solutions for-

  1. "XXXX has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world." BRAINSTORM SOLUTION perhaps better to use rankings?
  2. The overlisting of great facts about a school - "As of October 2019, Berkeley alumni, faculty members and researchers include 107 Nobel laureates, the third most of any university worldwide, as well as 25 Turing Award winners, and 14 Fields Medalists. They have also won 19 Wolf Prizes, 45 MacArthur Fellowships,[17] 20 Academy Awards, 19 Pulitzer Prizes, and 207 Olympic medals.[18] In 1930, Ernest Lawrence invented the cyclotron at Berkeley, based on which UC Berkeley researchers along with Berkeley Lab have discovered or co-discovered 16 chemical elements – more than any other university.[19][20][21] During the 1940s, Berkeley physicist J. R. Oppenheimer, the "Father of the Atomic Bomb", led the Manhattan project to create the first atomic bomb. In the 1960s, Berkeley was particularly noted for the Free Speech Movement as well as the anti–Vietnam War movement led by its students.[22][23][24]". BRAINSTORM SOLUTION - perhaps better to list what the school actually does?
  3. The use of the word prestigous. BRAINSTORM SOLUTION - perhaps it is better to not use the word prestigous to describe university pages, because of the arguments and controversy it draws on wikipedia.
  4. Cherry Picking Rankings. BRAINSTORM SOLUTION - It is important to know what is notable and exemplary about the school, but also from a balanced perspective. (how do we have a consistent way to address cherry picking?)
  5. The use of synthesis statements - "Stanford is known for its academic achievements, wealth, close proximity to Silicon Valley, and selectivity; it ranks as one of the world's top universities." BRAINSTORM SOLUTION - Could all universities cite they are known for their academic achievements? For example could London School of Economics say they are known for their academic achievements, history, selectivity, and wealth too? This would be fair, or should these types of statements be removed from wikipedia.

These were just possible things to discuss to create a standard. Where is boosterism the norm in yours, and can you brainstorm any ideas that can be consistently applied across university wiki pages to address boosterism? Mikecurry1 (talk) 23:37, 12 April 2020 (UTC)

On point 5 doesn't this just means everyone gets a pony and the pony becomes worthless so we shouldn't have the ponies? Shadowssettle(talk) 23:47, 12 April 2020 (UTC)
On point 5, interesting point, i am leaving it open for discussion for any brainstorming ideas everyone has to specifically address boosterism consistently across university pages. As well as eggregious examples they see and would like to specifically address. I am not attached to any brainstorm solution proposed above, so please propose your own brainstormed ideas too for us all to be able to gain consensus on.Mikecurry1 (talk)
How does this work without eschewing summary language (#1 and #5), placing arbitrary limits on what can be mentioned (#2), possibly playing whack-a-mole with language (#3; if not "prestigious", then it could become "noteworthy", "notable", "esteemed", etc., or any word not explicitly banned by WP:PEACOCK and supported by sources), or making arbitrary distinctions (#4; who decides what rankings are best and what they actually measure?)? Dhtwiki (talk) 04:10, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
  • Not ready. I don't think we're quite ready for this conversation yet. We need to first figure out what is or is not acceptable language for university articles to use, then we can talk about what needs to change with the articles that aren't acceptable to bring them up to some defined standard. You include a cursory nod above to the fact that there's still uncertainty about where the line is, but then go on to list a bunch of examples that you think need fixing and ask us how to fix them. I wouldn't agree that all of them violate WP:SUBJECTIVE in a way that needs fixing (Stanford's line, for instance, looks fine to me). The discussion above has been progressing alright (although I wish, as I often do, that editors were more concise, more civil, better at indenting, and more willing to read each other's comments/engage with each other's arguments), and I don't think we should curtail it by starting another one before it's run its course. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 05:27, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
@dhtwiki. I agree, those are all good points, particularly the use of peacock and summary sentences. I was listing specific examples to make it more concrete and constructive - while I was not advocating any of these are boosterism per say, it was more how we can facilitate conversation by listing specific places we think boosterism can be applied more consistently across wiki pages.
@sdkb. I completely agree 100 percent. The other thread should run and progress to discuss boosterism. I was not trying to propose that Stanford used boosterism in that sentence, instead I was trying to facilitate conversation about where is the grey line that can be more consistent across articles. A question is what are the specific and concrete examples where we think boosterism is now the norm, and leave this as a side textbox where we can list our ideas to brainstorm solutions? Mikecurry1 (talk) 18:33, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
  • I'm opposed to formally allowing any form of boosterism. If it exists but is wrong, then we can point to WP:Other stuff exists in discussions, but once it is allowed somewhere it becomes an argument about where a line should be drawn on everyone page, which will be unmanageable. Robminchin (talk) 05:52, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
  • On rankings, my preferred solution would be to have all of the rankings in the relevant rankings infobox given and no others (certainly not in the lead, possibly some in the rankings section). Specialised versions of rankings could potentially be allowed for specialist institutions (e.g. University of Law could have its rankings for law rather than the overall ranking, but still drawn from the same sets of rankings). That centralises discussion as to which rankings to include at the national level rather than leaving out to individual institutions, thus avoiding cherry-picking while not unleashing a flood of minor rankings. Robminchin (talk) 05:52, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
This is a quick note to emphasize that and push back against the idea that any mention of a positive or favorable reputation (rankings, comparisons, scholarly or professional judgments, etc.) is "boosterism." We need to distinguish between (a) responsible summaries or inclusion of high quality, reliable sources, (b) Wikipedia editors naively including or aggregating low quality sources, and (c) Wikipedia editors including low quality sources to promote an institution. Only the third can properly be called boosterism; the other two are legitimate areas of discussion and editorial discretion. ElKevbo (talk) 15:30, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
Good ideas and points Robminchin and Elkevbo. It does make sense for the infobox to be the primary source of rankings on wiki university pages to reduce cherry picking and the flood of rankings. This would allow for more consistency across articles. As El Kevbo noted, it also makes sense to allow a modest amount of room for other notable and positive rankings about a school. For example, Howard University may have notable diversity rankings, or in terms of stanford entrepreneurship rankings would make sense, or in terms of London School of Economics high income rankings that are particularly notable about a school, without considering any positive ranking as boosterism. Also to keep in mind what elkevbo ideas on distinguishing the sources of these additional rankings. Perhaps wikipedia can be more like an encyclopedia than summary of rankings lists, so the infobox would be the primary place for rankings rather than leaving the majority of the rankings section to individual institutions. That would have more consistency for sure. Perhaps one way to implement this would be to reduce the size of ranking sections. Good ideas. Mikecurry1 (talk) 18:33, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
I don't quite follow what you're saying; can you please rephrase it?
Personally, I'm all in favor of removing rankings from lede sections altogether and relegating them to the "Academics" or "Rankings" section or subsection except in unique circumstances (I've been doing that for a few years now, mostly with success). Keeping those sections up-to-date, reducing the amount of cherry-picking that occurs in them, and removing bullshit "rankings" (there are a huge number of predatory websites that masquerade as ranking systems) is an endless task but articles are a bit better if we keep this mess quarantined to one specific section and out of the lede. ElKevbo (talk) 19:50, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
I don't know which ones are "predetory", although I would be interested in standardising the rankings to avoid cherry picking and advantageous ones.
In terms of relegation out of the lead, I am indifferent, although it would do well to avoid cherry picking, so I can see it's merits (i.e. weak support) Shadowssettle(talk) 20:26, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
I don't know if much has been written about the many predatory ranking systems that proliferate online; many of them are really obvious once you know what to look for (partly because the owners are pretty lazy so they often reuse large portions of their code across their many websites). But we should limit ourselves to ranking systems that have been extensively cited by scholars and professional journalists or at least have the imprimatur of highly regarded organizations with relevant expertise i.e., just because it exists on a website or has been included in an institution's press releases doesn't mean we should include it. ElKevbo (talk) 23:30, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
ElKevbo I liked your and Robminchin ideas, so I was trying to synthesize them into something that there could be a consensus on through a middle of the road approach. The rankings infobox could be the primary source of rankings information (to reduce cherry picking). We do not need to have wikipedia be a place for university ranking lists. Then the rankings sections would reduce the number of rankings displayed. As every school has notable things about it - such as Howard University scores strongly in diversity, or Stanford in entreprenuership, we would not need to consider any mention of a positive rankings as boosterism. We could use the three distinguishing charachteristics (a), (b), (c) you listed to determine what to remove from the "rankings" section. One key difference between this proposed ranking section and the current ranking sections, is that it would be smaller in size, where "some" rankings would be displayed, but not as many. We could gain a consensus on the three principles described to reduce the number of other rankings displayed in the "rankings section." Then the infobox becomes a more primary source of standardized rankings. Mikecurry1 (talk) 21:49, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
Got it; thanks for the clarification! I could get on board with this.
One small caveat: I'm not convinced that every institution has "notable things about it" in terms of formal rankings and similar data. There are many very reputable institutions in the U.S., particularly the regional public institutions that usually don't attract any press or adequate state funding but provide admirably adequate educations for hundreds of thousands of students. More specifically, even many of the notable ranking systems have created many categories and divisions that ensure that nearly every institution can boast of stellar performance in some obscure category or geographic niche. So in an ideal world we could have a discussion of this but I think we should first focus on the lede before trying to make specific recommendations for the rankings section. ElKevbo (talk) 23:30, 13 April 2020 (UTC)
I was thinking in terms of the lead, mostly. I don't know if this should have no rankings at all (this would be a major change to the current situation), but as a clarification of the current guidelines so that "Rankings should … represent a comprehensive cross-section of major rankings by national and international publications" means the lead should only mention rankings in the relevant infobox (which can vary between countries) to meet "major rankings" and should mention all of those rankings to meet "comprehensive cross-section" (e.g. no leaving out ARWU because it ranks the institution much lower than THE & QS). There could be an exception for specialist institutions to have different rankings in the lead, but this would be a general guideline for most institutions. To me, saying something like Howard is known for its diversity or that LSE is notable for the high income of its graduates is a different question from academic rankings and are fine in the lead (with the usual caveats about neutral wording, etc.) Robminchin (talk) 23:52, 13 April 2020 (UTC)

Request for Comment about descriptions of reputation in the ledes of articles about colleges and universities[edit]

Peremptory comment to reset the clock for the RfC bot after the recent reopening of the RfC. Original question: "How should the ledes of articles about colleges and universities describe the general reputation, prestige, or relative ranking(s) of the institution?" King of ♥ 00:43, 2 July 2020 (UTC)

How should the ledes of articles about colleges and universities describe the general reputation, prestige, or relative ranking(s) of the institution? ElKevbo (talk) 03:57, 24 May 2020 (UTC)

Proposed options[edit]

The following options have been synthesized from the extensive discussion currently ongoing at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Higher education; you are free, of course, to propose edits to these options, create additional options, or participate in discussion without consideration of these options.

P1. There should be no mention of the general reputation, prestige, or relative ranking(s) of the institution in the lede of any article. This material is too frequently POV, there are numerous rankings and other sources that are solely promotional and have no scholarly or journalistic value, and editors frequently engage in unacceptable synthesis to write these statements.

P2. This material can be included in the lede of an article provided that it is explicitly supported by very high quality sources that are cited and carefully written to align with those sources to avoid synthesis and bias that goes beyond the sources. Higher education is a topic that is studied by scholars and written about by journalists who focus specifically on this topic so there are very high quality, reliable sources that make these claims and they can be responsibly included in the lede of relevant articles.

P3. This material can be included in the lede of an article provided that it is responsibly summarized and discussed and sourced in the body of the article in accordance with the NPOV policy's guidance on discussing reputations. Ledes for these articles should not be treated differently than those for other subjects with reputations (e.g. movies), and should summarize material included in the body.

ElKevbo (talk) 03:57, 24 May 2020 (UTC)

Relevant policies and discussions[edit]

Policies and guidelines[edit]


Prior discussions[edit]


  • ~P1. P2 > P3. EEng 01:30, 15 May 2020 (UTC)
@EEng: Sorry, by ~ here do you mean no or yes? Shadowssettle(talk) 11:23, 25 May 2020 (UTC)
See Negation#Notation. EEng 17:27, 21 June 2020 (UTC)
Thanks, I was ~sure which you meant, but not unaware of the notation. Shadowssettle(talk) 18:40, 21 June 2020 (UTC)
  • P2 is by far the most acceptable option for me; P3 is a distant second place and P1 is unacceptable. (Long-winded rationales and discussion are in sections above created prior to this RfC.) ElKevbo (talk) 04:06, 24 May 2020 (UTC)
I worry that many editors may not be reading the discussions that preceded this RfC and more fully explain my rationale (and I'm not sure I blame as those discussions are lengthy and dense!). P1 is contrary to our policies because it would not allow editors to include information in the lede even if it is supported in the body of the article with sources of even the highest quality - peer-reviewed scholarship. It is contrary to our mission to disallow this information because it's often included without adequate evidence, with poor evidence, or added in bad faith; the correct response is to insist on high quality sources and ledes that responsibly summarize the critical information in articles even when that information is unfamiliar or distasteful to some of us (and most or all of that distaste can be - and is intended to be - reduced by relying on high quality scholarship that, incidentally, largely eschews the ranking systems that are so widely disliked and abused.) ElKevbo (talk) 03:14, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P3, with P2 as second choice, and oppose P1. There is absolutely a widespread problem with boosterism in some higher education articles, but an institution's academic reputation is an essential basic fact that we should communicate to readers via reliable sources in accordance with our policy at WP:SUBJECTIVE. Noting that Harvard is widely considered one of the most prestigious universities in the world is not WP:PUFFERY any more than noting that Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest authors in the English language. My concern with P2 is that too strict a standard may have an adverse impact on our ability to characterize reputations of smaller or more specialized schools (e.g. Wellesley, Julliard) that have academic reputations in their domains just as pronounced as those of large schools but haven't had dozens of books written about them to scour for citations the way Harvard has. We shouldn't be using unreliable rankings, but WP:SUBJECTIVE applies perfectly well to this area without us needing to create a special heightened standard. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 04:07, 24 May 2020 (UTC)
  • P3, which is more-or-less what we have now. P1 is too severe and, I would guess, difficult to enforce. P2 is vague (what constitutes "very high quality" sources?) and not well written (is "This material" or the "very high quality sources" supposed to be "carefully written"). Dhtwiki (talk) 23:39, 24 May 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P1, then P2 for rationale given previously Shadowssettle(talk) 23:54, 24 May 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P1 in hopes of putting to rest serious issues with NPOV. Dedicated sections on rankings and reputation can and should speak for themselves. Oppose both P2 and P3, although P2 is preferred over P3 by a wide margin. If P2 were adjusted to avoid puffery in the way suggested below by Robminchin, I would be open to supporting P2, although P1 is still preferred. Drevolt (talk) 05:25, 25 May 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P3, but with sourcing per P2. I think we should have "explicitly supported by very high quality sources", to avoid alumni or associated staff claims. However, it should only be in the lead if it is in the body.--Hippeus (talk) 12:51, 25 May 2020 (UTC)
  • P2~P3>P1. From a principled point of view P3 is what we should be doing, but in practice boosterism is very hard to fight; thus P2 is an acceptable pragmatic compromise. P1 is just saying that academic reputation is far too hot a potato for Wikipedia to handle, which is a counsel of despair too far. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 10:39, 27 May 2020 (UTC)
    I fear we may have run into some notational ambiguity. By ~ do you mean ¬ or do you mean  ? EEng 19:09, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
@EEng: Did I go too far? Shadowssettle(talk) 20:01, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
No, you're cool. EEng 20:27, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
Wait do you mean we're cool, because the weather's warm over here, and I fear you'd be mistaken if given a plain reading Shadowssettle(talk) 12:47, 24 June 2020 (UTC)
  • Comment added after reopening for clarity I mean that I am fairly indifferent between P2 and P3, but prefer both of them to P1. I also note that much of my concern with P1 is driven by concerns about WP:MOSLEAD which says that the lead should "briefly summarize the most important points covered in an article". I don't see why any topic which receives sufficient coverage in the article should be specifically banned from the lead. This is a separate question from whether certain topics should be banned from the article itself. Jonathan A Jones (talk) 10:41, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P3 I fully second what Hippeus wrote; it makes a lot of sense that the material is appropriate provided that it is both properly cited and discussed in the body. WildlyAccurate (talk) 18:42, 30 May 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P2 with the caveat that the WP:PUFFERY should be followed, i.e. articles should state that experts call an institution elite/prestigious/etc., not use the editorial voice to say that an institution is elite/prestigious/etc. Use of "widely considered" (as in an earlier example) needs to follow WP:WEASEL, but if this is done then "Harvard is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious universities in the world" would not be puffery (assuming expert references showing this were provided) but "Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world" (stating an opinion as fact in the editorial WP:WIKIVOICE) is puffery. I prefer P2 over P3 as this is a matter where expert opinion is what counts, not the opinion of average newspaper columnists. Robminchin (talk) 05:52, 31 May 2020 (UTC)
    I previously said that I favored P1 and opposed P2 and P3; however, I think that I would probably support a version of P2 amended with this caveat over P1. Drevolt (talk) 19:53, 31 May 2020 (UTC)
    Robminchin, I'm curious whether you can describe any situation in which something could be widely considered the most prestigious without actually being the most prestigious. (Please ping me.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:15, 6 June 2020 (UTC)
WhatamIdoing – Wikipedia sticks to talking about facts in its editorial WP:WIKIVOICE, not opinions. "Prestigious" (and similar words in WP:PUFFERY) are, by their nature, opinions, that's why they are puffery when stated as fact. The fact, which is what Wikipedia reports, is that an opinion is widely held (or held by some people, etc.) – it is a basic part of WP:NPOV never to state opinions as facts, even if they are widely held. Robminchin (talk) 18:37, 6 June 2020 (UTC)
I do not agree. We write facts about opinions in Wikipedia's voice.
But that's kind of tangential. Prestige == what people think. You seem to be saying here that there is a real difference in meaning between "This is prestigious" and "This is considered to be prestigious". The first sentence means "This is favorably considered by people" and the second says "This is considered to be favorably considered by people". I do not think that there is any actual difference between "is prestigious" and "is considered to be prestigious" (other than failing to omit needless words). So I am asking: If you see a significant, real difference, please give me an example of a subject which is considered prestigious but which is not prestigious (or vice versa). If you can't give me an example of a subject that is thought of highly but isn't, um, thought of highly, then maybe there is no factual difference between those two formulations. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:44, 6 June 2020 (UTC)
The page you cite actually says the opposite of what you claim. It is even titled "assert facts, not opinions". It goes on to define an opinion as "a matter which is subject to serious dispute or commonly considered to be subjective" – and prestige is certainly "commonly considered to be subjective". It is a fact that Harvard is commonly considered prestigious, but it is an opinion that Harvard is prestigious, thus we stick to the facts and say that Harvard is commonly considered prestigious. That lots of people hold that opinion doesn't stop it being an opinion and move it into the realm of objective fact, thus there is a real difference between these two statements. Defining prestige and measuring it is virtually impossible, thus it cannot easily be moved into the realm of fact, and certainly can't be moved there by just quoting more opinions. You may find this popular article or this research article on university prestige, the difference between prestige and reputation, and why it can't be measured useful. Robminchin (talk) 22:11, 8 June 2020 (UTC)
I've just realised what it is that you are asking with "a subject that is thought of highly but isn't, um, thought of highly". This is a false analogy – what we are talking about here is defining prestige (etc.) based on expert opinion, so what you should be asking is for "a subject that experts think is thought of highly but isn't actually thought of highly". Expert opinion can be wrong about what people actually think – politics provides a rich vein of examples throughout history, the obvious example of the 2016 US presidential election where the polls showed a win for Clinton comes to mind but there are many others. Opinions, even consensus expert opinions, are still not facts and that is why Wikipedia policy is not to state them as facts. Robminchin (talk) 16:13, 14 June 2020 (UTC)
Robminchin, I think I've asked the correct question, but perhaps it would be clearer in a different form. You seem to prefer that we write that something 'is widely considered to be prestigious' instead of 'is prestigious'. Please explain the practical, concrete, specific difference between the actual meaning of the two phrases. NB that I'm not looking for Wikipedia's style; I'm looking for actual real-world difference. I am not convinced that it is possible for something to be widely considered to be prestigious without actually being prestigious. ("Wide consideration" means that more than esoteric expert opinions are involved.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 05:58, 14 July 2020 (UTC)
The specific difference in meaning is that the first is reporting the fact that many people have this opinion and the second is reporting that this opinion is a fact. That is why we say the first and not the second on Wikipedia. Whether there is a practical difference or not is immaterial to the discussion at hand, but it is clearly possible for experts to be mistaken about what people in general think, as has been demonstrated at many elections. Robminchin (talk) 06:22, 14 July 2020 (UTC)
No, what recent elections have primarily demonstrated is the difficulty of predicting who will actually vote. EEng 06:32, 14 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose P1. Phrases like highly selective college aren't as subjective as they sound. If a school is particularly known for something, then the article should say so plainly: "known for producing right-wing lawyers" (reputation) or "its STEM majors have one of the highest rates of grad school acceptance in the country" (rankings). There is far ore more to reputation, prestige and rankings than USN&WR. WhatamIdoing (talk) 18:11, 6 June 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P1 only, and very very strongly so.If you have to say in so many words that it is prestigeous, the lede is poorly written.--just as for an article on a business business, if you have to say its important. The information in the article should make it clear, if it really is. Othersie ,it's just a buzzword that anyone can claim.,as in " the most prestigeous business school in Abreacadra County." You can always find a quote for it. Even good sources just reprint the school's PR. The history and description of the school, the list of distinguished research and faculty and alumni and the role oft he school in major social and academic and scientific projects is what makes it prestigeous. Not much of it can go in the lede, but some of it can. . (ratings help, and there's a good place for a few selected overall ratings: in a section at the end.). It's my firm impression that somewhere beween 95 and 100% of our articles on universities are PR jobs at heart--the rule holds--if the content would do for their web page, it won;t do for WP. That's especially true for the lede. DGG ( talk ) 05:51, 9 June 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P1 only: We do not need to turn the lead into a top advertising spot for universities and colleges. Imperial College London is an example. The last paragraph in the lead seems to be commonly used to list notable alumni (that surely advances prominence) except on this article that is a "ranking" (prominence) paragraph. This is an incremental slippery slope. Harvard has a Reputation and rankings section and Princeton has a Rankings section that is not in the lead. This will change every time one of the authoritative and recognized sources releases a new publication. Adding such information to the lead will be subjected to those changes, that will surely be biased, and would actually necessitate a move to allowing five paragraphs to the lead to fairly cover this. The University of Cambridge and University College London will now need six paragraphs--- (or trimming). Yes, this is a dynamic encyclopedia but we need to resist adding content to the lead that 1)- changes frequently (and subjective), 2)-has a hint of promotional tones, and 3)- is controversial. Any of "The World's Top 100 Universities" would be considered "Prestigious" (or similar PUFF wording) but it begs the questions How prestigious? (sources please), By who's authority (more sources please). As a concise summary of sourced content found in the body of the article we do not usually advocate sourcing the lead. Now we are wanting to implement a change there also. MIT is a GA assessed article with only two paragraphs and according to the above source has been ranked #1 in the world. Someone would surely want to put that in the lead. -- Otr500 (talk) 10:45, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P2 or P3 (or somewhere in between P2/P3), oppose P1. There are responsible ways to discuss reputation, and there are irresponsible ways to discuss reputation. There is no reason implement a blanket ban throughout the project which would remove even balanced, well-sourced material from individual articles. I encourage conscientious editors to foster consensus on their articles of concern rather than support an inflexible blanket policy. RedHotPear (talk) 01:40, 21 June 2020 (UTC)
Just wanted to clarify, this isn't about removing sources from articles, this is whether frequently promotional information should appear in the lead. Shadowssettle(talk) 09:11, 21 June 2020 (UTC)
I completely understand that this is about content and not only sources, and content was what I was referring to in my comment. Thank you for clarifying. RedHotPear (talk) 16:09, 21 June 2020 (UTC)
  • P3. Per MOS:LEAD "The lead should stand on its own as a concise overview of the article's topic. It should identify the topic, establish context, explain why the topic is notable, and summarize the most important points, including any prominent controversies...As in the body of the article itself, the emphasis given to material in the lead should roughly reflect its importance to the topic, according to reliable, published sources." To suggest we cannot include information about a college's reputation or ranking (or whatever term you want to use) is a direct affront to that guideline. If we can say Casablanca's "reputation gradually improved, to the point that its lead characters, memorable lines, and pervasive theme song have all become iconic and it consistently ranks near the top of lists of the greatest films in history," Babe Ruth "is regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time," and Pink Floyd "were distinguished for their extended compositions, sonic experimentation, philosophical lyrics and elaborate live shows, and became a leading band of the progressive rock genre [and] are one of the most commercially successful and influential bands in popular music history," we can clearly say Harvard, Yale, Oxford or whatever is highly thought of, provided we find reliable sources to back it up. P2 would be a compromise position, I guess, though there is no reason to treat colleges different from other subjects. P1 is a non-starter per my previous comments. Calidum 14:50, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
    • Edit: WP:NPOV, particularly the section WP:SUBJECTIVE, further supports the idea that discussing a college's reputation -- good or bad -- is allowed ("More generally, it is sometimes permissible to note an article subject's reputation when that reputation is widespread and informative to readers"). While some have suggested SUBJECTIVE applies only to creative works (despite the sentence I quoted saying it applies more generally), numerous featured articles on unrelated topics highlight the subject's reputation prominently in the lead. In addition to Babe Ruth mentioned above, see Antonin Scalia ("he has been described as one of the most influential jurists of the twentieth century...and one of the most important justices in the Supreme Court's history"), PowerBook 100 ("it has been praised several times for its design; PC World named the PowerBook 100 the tenth-greatest PC of all time in 2006, and US magazine Mobile PC chose the PowerBook 100 as the greatest gadget of all time in 2005") and Hippocrates ("[he] is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is often referred to as the 'Father of Medicine' in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field"), among others. Calidum 02:08, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • P3 1st choice, P2 2nd choice, not P1 - What, we think the Academy Awards aren't rigged like US News rankings? No reason to treat these articles differently than any other. Yes, "prestige" is bullshit, but it's bullshit that matters. Levivich[dubious – discuss] 01:29, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • After that close review I feel the need to assist the next closer by bluelinking WP:NOT amd WP:PEA in this discussion. I've had the opportunity to think a lot about this discussion during the close review, and I'm confident that this WikiProject should not have its own separate guideline on promotional language or peacock terms. The rules that apply everywhere else in the encyclopaedia need to apply here too. Wikipedia is not for promoting your alma mater. And WP:SUBJECTIVE is meant to apply to artworks and creative works: it's not reasonable to apply it to places of higher education.—S Marshall T/C 01:57, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
I actually feel the opposite: P1 would create a separate standard, and P2/P3 are much more consistent with Wikipedia-wide content policies. I strongly believe you are misrepresenting P2/P3, and I encourage potential participants and closers to re-read and carefully consider these options as they are instead of relying on S Marshall's secondhand characterization. Of course, promotional language, undue weight, and peacock terms ought to be challenged whenever they appear on individual articles. But P1 is the separate standard, not P2/P3. RedHotPear (talk) 02:21, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
@S Marshall: I genuinely appreciate the grace with which you've handled the overturn of your closure and your continued participation in the discussion. ElKevbo (talk) 03:04, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
I've added this discussion to Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Wikipedia policies and guidelines and WP:CENT, and added a note to Wikipedia talk:Neutral point of view#Request for Comment about descriptions of reputation in the ledes of articles about colleges and universities. Given the wide advertisement of the discussion, I view this RfC as having the power to refine WP:SUBJECTIVE. At some point WP:LOCALCONSENSUS ends and a policy-changing discussion begins. -- King of ♥ 03:47, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
Comment on the new issues raised. WP:SUBJECTIVE is about "describing aesthetic opinions and reputations". This could be parsed as being about aesthetic opinions and aesthetic reputations, or about reputations and aesthetic opinions. Reading thorough the paragraph below, it appears (to me) to split into "Aesthetic opinions are diverse and subjective…" and "More generally, it is sometimes permissible to note an article subject's reputation…" This strongly implies that it is applicable to reputations more generally. Further, it is explicitly not limited to just works of art but includes people such as musicians and actors. Can we draw a hard boundary between the art of acting and the art of lecturing? What is research but the creation of new knowledge? The core activities of universities and colleges, which are key to their reputations, are (interpreted in the broad sense, as implied by its application elsewhere) creative in nature, thus it seems to me that the statement that WP:SUBJECTIVE does not apply to universities is false even if WP:SUBJECTIVE is limited to creative topics.
I would further say that I entirely agree that "this WikiProject should not have its own separate guideline on promotional language or peacock terms", thus my insistence above that we follow WP:PUFFERY (which, incidentally, cites WP:NOT) and the example at WP:SUBJECTIVE and do not state that somewhere "is prestigious" but that it "is widely considered prestigious" (or similar language as appropriate). I think the reason nobody mentioned WP:NOT is that we all agree on it and do not consider that making a statement about a university's reputation is necessarily any more promotional than making a statement about an artist's reputation (which is explicitly allowed under WP:SUBJECTIVE). We all (at least I would like to think) would oppose promotional wordings in university articles.
What we are trying to do here, then, is not to come up with different rules for universities but for guidelines on how the existing rules should be best applied to universities. There are, unfortunately, editors out there who are not as on-board with WP:NOT as the participants in this discussion, and who will dig up references of dubious quality to support their claims. Among this, I would certainly include the use of rankings to say that a university is prestigious (or anything other than ranked in a certain position). The complete removal of rankings from the lead does not seem unreasonable given the WP:UNDUE weight frequently given to what are fairly dubious indicators of university quality. For a university's reputation to be mentioned in the lead, it requires high quality sources to avoid giving WP:UNDUE weight to minor opinions. It is unlikely that sources will explicitly say "The University of Poppleton is not prestigious" – it is the silence of high quality sources in not saying it is prestigious that is the other side of the argument. If it is true that a university is prestigious, there should exist high quality sources to back this up.
All of which is a fairly long-winded way of saying that after considering the new arguments I still support p2 as the best option (not bolded as this is the same as my !Vote above), with the caveat (as above) that WP:PUFFERY (and applicable policies) apply here just as much as anywhere else on Wikipedia. Language that is promotional or presents reputations as facts rather than opinions should continue to be banned, per current policy. Robminchin (talk) 05:10, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • P2 I agree this is a problematic issue and have experienced it as a reader. I see P2 as the option most consistent with our global Wikipedia principles. I agree that the bar to what constitutes a source used to verify these claims needs to be a high one, ie. a secondary source that is not just (a) piece in popular media, and (b) from a proprietary ranking system. --Tom (LT) (talk) 04:51, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I've commented above on the RfC's previous scope. On its expanded scope:-
    Q: Does WP:SUBJECTIVE, as currently written, encompass universities and places of higher education?
    A: No. Lecture halls aren't theatres or opera stages, lecturers aren't actors or sopranos and, although I can see that there's some peripheral overlap in the speaking skills and vocal projection, I feel that it takes a little too much motivated reasoning and special pleading to put those professions in the same pigeonhole.
    Q: Should we expand WP:SUBJECTIVE and WP:PEA to be kinder to academia?
    A: I'm not opposed to a certain amount of expansion. For me, the bright line is that WP:SUBJECTIVE shouldn't apply to any institution that directly wants to take your money now. This means that I would be grudgingly accepting, on the basis of a rewritten and expanded WP:SUBJECTIVE, to say the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics is a prestigious post but I wouldn't want the lead of University of Cambridge to use that word, which is high up on the list of words to watch for bloody good reasons.—S Marshall T/C 08:44, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
Could you clarify this? As written, it seems that your bright line would allow state-funded German universities (which don't charge tuition fees) to be described as prestigious but not painters who sell their works or musicians who charge for their concerts. This clearly isn't the sense in which you mean it, as it would completely upended WP:SUBJECTIVE, but I can't work out what you do mean. Robminchin (talk) 03:24, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
On the issue of whether lectures are creative we will have to disagree, but I will note that lectures attract copyright both in their delivery and their written form in the same way as operas or plays precisely because they are creative works. Limiting "creative works" to a specific subset of creative works that match an editor's preconceived notions seems more like special pleading than applying the standard meaning of the term. Robminchin (talk) 03:45, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
Further, WP:ATTRIBUTEPOV allows for "biased statements of opinion" to be presented "with in-text attribution" and makes no limitation, implicit or otherwise, on what kind of articles this covers. That "John Doe is the best baseball player" can be stated as a biased opinion with attribution under WP:ATTRIBUTEPOV but expert opinions about university reputations cannot would make no sense. Robminchin (talk) 07:27, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
German universities do charge hefty fees; those fees are funded by the German state for EU citizens, but an American attending the University of Heidelberg would pay. They would not be exempt from my proposal.
I'm not proposing an amendment to WP:SUBJECTIVE for creatives. I'm trying to put reasonable limits on its proposed expansion to include academia, and the purpose of those limits is to manage commercially-motivated editing. We already have a rampant problem with unintentional advocacy editing by alumni, as a glance at many university articles on Wikipedia will tell you, which I feel necessitates a strictly rigorous approach to adjectives in leads.—S Marshall T/C 08:53, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P2 and P3 - Etiher option should be allowed. Beyond My Ken (talk) 10:43, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Strongly oppose P1. There is no reason to censor factual, well sourced information such as "consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world" just because it makes the subject look good. You might as well say that you can’t mention a person’s Nobel Prize or a movie’s Academy Awards in the lead because it could be regarded as "puffery". Support both P2 and P3, both of which should be required: the material has to be "explicitly supported by very high quality sources," and it has to be summarized and discussed in the article body. Those are normal standards for any article, and if they are met for material about a school or university, of course the material should be included. -- MelanieN (talk) 18:47, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Support P3. I'm fine in spirit with P2, but I worry that in practice there will be too much fighting over what "very high quality sources" means exactly. Oppose P1 per MelanieN. -- King of ♥ 07:23, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
  • P3>P2>P1 per Calidum and MelanieN. Universities can look as good as actors and sportspeople. There is no reason to subject them to higher sourcing requirements than any other topic in which rankings and reputation are valued. feminist; you can't silence us 13:32, 3 July 2020 (UTC)
  • Oppose P1 as written, it violates NPOV by taking a very particular POV on a class of information without reference to RS, especially to the extent it bans particular words and concepts that RS use in WP:LEADS - one of the very purposes of a lead is to distinguish the subject from other subjects (here, one school from another).
That being said, on the particular issue of "rankings", I could perhaps see a refined guidance on "rankings" which encompasses conveying briefly that there is an RS critique of rankings, alongside rankings, when they are used anywhere in the article (perhaps a model note or types of partial sentences ("while", "although", etc) with best RS critiques). Before that though, some editor(s) will actually have to do and present the research on rankings, as the basis for an RfC (and I might recommend, you get a couple of experienced editors - perhaps from the group above with very different views to work together on it.) Alanscottwalker (talk) 14:24, 4 July 2020 (UTC)
  • P3 The admission here is that the media business sold out for the higher-ed business. If most of the sources on the subject have been compromised by money, I don't think the solution is to prohibit their bad data from the lede. It's our job to repeat the official lies; to do anything else violates policy. Chris Troutman (talk) 21:08, 5 July 2020 (UTC)
  • P3 Standard guidance such as WP:PEACOCK seems quite adequate. Special rules for each circumstance are not sensible per WP:CREEP and WP:NOTLAW. Andrew MA (Cantab)🐉(talk) 10:46, 6 July 2020 (UTC)


Follow up[edit]

Meta-discussion prior to initial close

So, as happens with more than two-way votes, the outcome of this is a little muddy. There seems to be more acceptance of P2 than other options, should we say that this was inconclusive and leave it (as I've said previously I think that would be the worst possible outcome, a consensus on this is better than no consensus), should we say that we try a second RfC on P2 vs. P3 seeing as they've been the most widely accepted outcomes, or should we try and do P2 vs. the suggestions to P2, or should we just leave it? Shadowssettle(talk) 10:29, 18 June 2020 (UTC)

I don't think it's helpful to have meta-discussion while the RFC is still open. Perhaps consensus will become clearer, but regardless it's the job of the closer to gauge that. Participants trying to figure out how to close a discussion they're involved with rarely ends well — there's almost always at least one editor who lets their bias get in the way of an objective reading of consensus. Just list it at WP:ANRFC once the tag gets removed. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 17:54, 18 June 2020 (UTC)
Agree with Sdkb. A quick look seems to currently indicate P1 has four (4) support, P2 has two (2) support, and P3 has four (4) support. This does not seem muddy. Even before I gave a !vote P2 seemed at the bottom. That is just a count, that could indicate no consensus at best (so far), but a closer has to determine consensus according to the understanding of current policies and guidelines, common practice, and even relevant project practices (See: MOS:ARTCON), which is why we wait for that. It will either stand, or be contested, not start a new RFC unless possibly advised by the closer. -- Otr500 (talk) 11:14, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
I had left this because I didn't disagree with Sdkb's point, however, just to clarify: At the time I posted this this had been untouched for 9 days, and I was just wondering what we should do and when, not saying we should do anything in particular. Also, at the time it was P1:P2:P3=3:2:4, however, most responses (~7) said P2 would be acceptable. So, to completely disagree with the mud-quantity, I would say there is a lot of it. It makes no sense to take the "let's go for the two extremes" point of view, and if most people are accepting of P2, then great, especially if you'd find that if it was between P1:P2 or P3:P2, more people would prefer the compromise (raw counting (FPTP) is what you get for the US and UK parliamentary systems, and it's why someone can win in the UK with 40% or less of the vote—not exactly the overall consensus). Counting it raw doesn't give any idea as to where the real general consensus, or compromise, is or would be. Once again, I'm not saying there is anything that should be done, I was just checking if there was, and so I completely agree this should just be left alone Shadowssettle(talk) 11:32, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
I am confident that the editor(s) who close this RfC will provide an accurate and helpful summary of the consensus, if one exists. Let's let them do that and not second-guess them before they've even begun. ElKevbo (talk) 15:18, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
Agreed, just wondering Shadowssettle(talk) 18:13, 19 June 2020 (UTC)

A few quick notes. First, some editors have raised questions about what constitutes a "very high quality source." That's a great question and one that we'd need to tackle next if P2 is the consensus. I am confident that we could come to agreement on this topic and set a very high bar that would exclude all or nearly all of the sources that most of us find objectionable or problematic e.g., self-published sources, self-serving sources, sources written by non-experts. At least in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, this general topic is one that has been and remains the subject of peer-reviewed scholarship so that is generally what we should be relying on. We don't need to go all the way down the road of WP:MEDRS but we should explore a little ways down that path if we find that there is useful precedent there.

Second, I am also sure that most or perhaps all of us can agree that specific and singular composite rankings don't belong in the lede (by "composite rankings" I am referring to ranking systems that combine multiple measures and categories; I hope we can agree that some specific numeric facts or measurements - number of students, size of the campus(es), age - can be included even if they are expressed as a comparison or rank - most populous, 3rd largest in the region, 5th oldest in the country). It may be noteworthy if an institution has routinely been ranked in particular ways for many years but of course we'd insist on high quality sources that specifically note that as an important fact rather then allowing Wikipedia editors to cherry pick rankings they believe are important. ElKevbo (talk) 20:13, 20 June 2020 (UTC)

RfC relisted[edit]

RfC close by S Marshall (here) overturned and RfC relisted per this WP:CLOSECHALLENGE. El_C 00:19, 2 July 2020 (UTC)

Assuming I remember I am happy to serve as closer of this. Best, Barkeep49 (talk) 05:14, 2 July 2020 (UTC)

A challenge case study for P2 supporters: Wellesley College[edit]

In the survey above, I !voted for P3 over P2 largely because of my concern that imposing an overly strict special heightened standard may have an adverse impact on our ability to characterize reputations of smaller or more specialized schools (e.g. Wellesley, Julliard) that have academic reputations in their domains just as pronounced as those of large schools but haven't had dozens of books written about them to scour for the highest possible quality citations the way Harvard has. So, to those who support P2, I'd like to issue a challenge that'll hopefully help keep this discussion at a more grounded level (and maybe have the side effect of improving an article that's likely suffered from WP's systemic bias against women): using only academic scholarship-level sources, what would you write for the lead of Wellesley College and how would you source it?

(For those who could use some context, Wellesley is an American women's college with 2500 students. It claims[1] that it is "widely acknowledged as the nation's best women's college", and the chatter at unreliable sources like College Confidential[2] indicates that it is at the least considered among the very top few. But my hunch is that, even under the spotlight here, it may be difficult to find a scholarly source that supports anything that adequately captures its reputation. Perhaps I missed an easy source in my two-minute preliminary Google search, in which case this will be quickly resolved, but if not, I'm curious if folks will be able to manage this.) {{u|Sdkb}}talk 06:17, 2 July 2020 (UTC)

A couple of references from a very quick search: Susan L. Poulson, Leslie Miller-Bernal (2006). Challenged by Coeducation: Women's Colleges Since the 1960s. Vanderbilt University Press. p. 6.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link), Lisa E. Wolf-Wendel. Irene B. Harwarth (ed.). Research Issues on Women's Colleges. A Closer Look At Women's Colleges. National Institute on Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education.. An more in-depth search would certainly uncover further references. Robminchin (talk) 07:14, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
It would take me quite some time to adequately answer this question. My inclination is always to start with the historians as they excel at taking the long, expansive view that I think we should embrace when writing encyclopedia articles. Although I am a U.S. higher ed scholar my specific areas of expertise and experience do not include an in-depth focus on women's colleges nor would I even consider myself an education historian. But there are people who have that expertise and I'd be looking in their work for this kind of information. I only have a few books on my shelves that address the broad history of women's colleges. In Solomon's 1985 book In the Company of Educated Women, she writes on page 47: "...four schools opening in the North in the post-Civil War decades - Vassar in 1865, Wellesley and Smith in 1875, and Bryn Mawr in 1884 - became national institutions. The evolution of this group of colleges had a far-reaching impact on both coeducational and single-sex institutions throughout the country." In The Struggle for Coeducation: Keep the Damned Women Out, Malkiel writes: "All in all, [Wellesley College] had a plausible claim to being the strongest of [the Seven Sisters]" (p. 391) when she is discussing the context for coeducation in the 1960s. Other books and articles that I skimmed point toward Horowitz as a particularly important scholar in this area so if I were pursuing this further I'd definitely check out her work. There is also material in the broader histories of U.S. higher education e.g., Thelin's 2004 A History of American Higher Education says that "Just as the men's colleges of the Northeast set the standard to be emulated nationwide, so did the women's colleges. Vassar, Wellesley, Smith, and Bryn Mawr were the models that founders invoked when [establishing other women's colleges] (p. 182)."
It's clear even from this extremely cursory search through just the materials I have at hand that this college is historically important; it was not just among the first women's colleges in the U.S. it was also one that was emulated by others. My next focus would be on finding materials that discuss the role and influence of the college in the 20th and 21st centuries to see if the college continued to have national importance or if that faded over time as the higher education picture continued to grow more complex and women's colleges continued to be challenged especially as coeducation became the norm in the second half of the 20th century.
So even though I don't have a direct answer to your challenge I think this is still a useful example as it shows how I think editors should be approaching this topic: Look to what scholars have said in the best available - usually peer-reviewed - materials. Note in particular that all of the authors I've quoted above are highly regarded scholars and their books were published in academic presses. Using these kinds of sources ensures that we're citing expert judgments, conclusions, and viewpoints. It also helps us avoid the worst excesses of original research where editors create their own criteria and draw upon primary sources, particularly cherry-picked rankings, to make original claims. As is the case nearly everywhere else in Wikipedia, if something is important enough to include in article, especially the lede, someone else - probably several people - will have already said it and we just need to accurately summarize and cite their work. That would result in many, probably most, of our articles about colleges and universities not saying much about the reputation of the institution, at least in the kinds of lasting and strong terms that warrant inclusion in the lede. But it also means that we need to pay attention in the cases where scholars and experts have written about this specific topic and properly weigh its importance in the article, including, if appropriate, the lede. ElKevbo (talk) 07:08, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
  • I support P3 in principle, because I see no reason for higher education institutions to be treated as an exception to our rules in this area governing any subject, but would prefer guidelines for all subjects to be tightened up (or respected more if they are already tight enough). Only if a reputation is exceptionally good or bad or disputed is it such an important fact as to be noted in the lead section of an article. Phil Bridger (talk) 08:35, 3 July 2020 (UTC)

Request for closer(s)[edit]

Regardless of how this RfC is closed and whether there is consensus on the broad issues it has tried to address, it would be helpful if the close of this RfC could clearly specify any areas, broad or specific, where there is agreement and consensus. In particular, it would be helpful to know if this discussion has provided any guidance that should result in modifications to the advice for articles about colleges and universities. For example, if this RfC concludes that there is broad agreement that specific rankings from ranking systems like U.S. News & World Report should not be included in the ledes of these articles then the corresponding section of the advice article would need to be updated because it currently has different advice. Thanks! ElKevbo (talk) 19:53, 3 July 2020 (UTC)

United Kingdom free-use coats of arms[edit]

There are currently free-use alternatives for many universities in the United Kingdom's coats of arms. Whilst some coats of arms, such as Edinburgh, use a circular seal as their normal emblem instead of a shield, so the currently available substitution would not be appropriate, for many it would seem sensible, since fair-use imagery is only meant to be used if no free-use alternative exists. Right now, Oxon, Cantab, Dunelm, Exeter, QMUL, and York, to name a few, let alone almost all constituent colleges outside of London, are using free-use arms. However, there hasn't been a push to replace fair-use with free-use arms for universities; the switch normally seems to happen when a fair-use rendition is transferred to Commons, where it is invariably deleted as against Commons policy, and then the free-use emblazonment is quickly put in to fill its place. Instead of this less-than-reliable approach, we might want something more standardised.

Right now, coats of arms available with free-use break down into the following categories:

  • Drop-in replacement – Free-use emblazonments are available which are not only true to blazon, but are mostly true to common depictions (based on the overall geometric positioning of elements, or on historic reliefs in buildings, neither of which is a copyright concern). These could probably be substituted without much notice or effect, for example: Imperial (commons), Birmingham (commons), Newcastle (commons), and Sheffield (commons).
This has already been done for Cantab, Dunelm, Exeter, QMUL, LSE, so would seem to be the sensible thing to do at least, especially given the inaccuracy of "no free-use available" guideline for these fair-use images.
  • Truer to blazon - A couple coats of arms are truer-to-blazon than the symbolic and stylised arms used by the university. This holds for Warwick (commons), whose blazon, which is available in the Commons file description, does not match the official "flat logo" style rendition currently used.
This logic has already been steadfastly applied to Oxon and York, and recently to Bristol without complaints either, even though the drop-in could be improved; the university-supplied digital Bristol arms available were low quality and used excessive shadowing, looking more like clip-art.
  • Shield only - Many free-use coats of arms are perfectly good renditions of the shield only, apart from notably QMUL and York. Whilst they could be rendered with mantling, this would be extra work to get it correctly, and when they are they would be handled by one of the above points anyway, so let's deal with them as currently is the case. These arguably are not under "no free-use available", as they aren't a true replacement, however, they could be considered as such, as they are a "good enough" replacement. As traditionally most university arms are displayed as simply the shield, it wouldn't be unreasonable to display these free-use emblazonments instead, for any of: King's—London (commons), Southampton (commons), Liverpool (commons), Leeds (commons)
Only Cardiff University has this in place, and only because the official arms were on Commons so were removed and replaced with the free-use arms (and subsequent attempts to revert back also went through commons)
  • True-but-off emblazonments - Many other emblazonments available freely are not quite perfect: although they are true to blazon, they don't quite look official, not just only being the shield, but also needing some possible tidying. Some of these could be improved with a bit of effort, namely Glasgow (commons) has awkward bell corners (although the overall shape isn't too bad), Manchester (commons) has a bad nebuly border. These could be quickly fixed if we wanted to drop-in Shield only replacements, but there is no impetus to otherwise.
St Andrews's looks a bit tired, and the University of Nottingham's has awkward towers, but both are in place because their official renditions were deleted off commons

Just looking for what the community would think is a sensible course of action with this. Personally, I think replacing all up to any of the first three categories could make sense (as in replacing just the first, the first two, or the first three), and that official renditions should be re-uploaded not to Commons for other universities to make it more consistent. Shadowssettle(talk) 11:41, 18 June 2020 (UTC)

My feeling is that we should be using free versions of the cost of arms wherever they exist – even if they are shield-only and don't show the full achievement. The Wikipedia policy says (WP:NFCCP]) "No free equivalent. Non-free content is used only where no free equivalent is available, or could be created, that would serve the same encyclopedic purpose." (my emphasis). If we take "or could be created" seriously, we should not be using non-free coats of arms at all, because they fail this test. We should certainly thus minimise the use of non-free images of coats of arms as much as possible. Robminchin (talk) 02:41, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
As I said, this is fine by me. I've tried to clean up the minor touches with Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow, but if you think there are others improvements which are needed (there probably are) feel free to upload new versions. If you're adding achievements or mottos, I would prefer them to uploaded as a separate image, but do overwrite if it's just shield fixes. I guess it's best to boldly go ahead and replace them, I'll start with the "drop-in" replacements, but feel free to go ahead with the rest, and then we can revisit the issue once the inevitable complaints come in. Shadowssettle(talk) 09:36, 19 June 2020 (UTC)
@Robminchin: Thanks for adding the long list of Durham colleges and more blazons. I'm just wondering (as I discussed below) if we are taking crest as the blazon (i.e. what you'd find represented in an encyclopedia) then should we take WP:NFCCP literally? In countries without traditions of heraldry (i.e. the United States), where seals are often in use, this doesn't apply, but in the UK, shouldn't official crests (even without current replacement) actually be removed by failing to meet the point you bring up? Shadowssettle(talk) 08:51, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
I think this is going to depend on the usage made of the cost of arms. I am not a lawyer but it seems to me, based on the fair use guidelines, that:
  • If the university actually uses a true-to-blazon version of the arms as a logo then use of that precise image can be justified under fair use as representing a logo. This would normally mean that the second image field in the infobox would be empty (as it is for universities that use only a logo and have no arms, e.g. UCL). This also means that the image of the shield can normally only be used once on the main article for three university and not on other article or elsewhere on the main article, per the fair use guidelines.
  • If the university's logo is a stylised version of the arms (e.g. Durham) or is completely different from the arms (e.g. Cardiff) then the use of a copyright image of the shield is going to be very hard to justify as fair use. If the image of the arms is not the logo of the university, then it should probably be replaced by a free-to-use version of the arms or removed.
It is likely that free-to-use versions will resemble "official" versions of the arms, but they shouldn't be exact copies or they would would infringe the copyright of the official version. The official version can change over the years as well (e.g., compare the historical development of Hatfield College, Durham here with the Wikipedia version). Robminchin (talk) 15:05, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
If it is their logo, then I completely agree, however for no university I know is their logo a true-to-blazon emblazonment with no name or text. Thus there will be both a logo and shield, so are you saying those shields should be changed to fair-use, even when the logo correctly shows how the university portrays itself, so the crest should be representing the coat of arms not brand (see my point below to Moxy). That would mean reverting the crest on University of Cambridge to a non-free-use one, which seems silly to me... Shadowssettle(talk) 15:25, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
I'm not sure what you're saying here. As long as the arms are shown, I don't think there is a need to show the crest (if there is one – many of the old universities have arms but no crest) or other parts of the whole achievement, although this can be done if desired. How much of the achievement to include is probably not something that needs to be specified.
If the university is not using the arms as a logo, then it is very hard to see how a fair-use argument can be made to use a non-free image (the other part of policy that might apply is WP:NFC#CS if there is sourced discussion of the image itself – but my understanding is that this would have to discuss, in this case, the artistic decisions made in the rendering of the blazon rather than discussion of the elements of the achievement, as it would be possible to illustrate the latter with a free version). But I don't understand how that would result in having to use a non-free image for Cambridge. Robminchin (talk) 19:01, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
Although just because an institution isn't using the arms in its brand identity on its website, that doesn't mean it's not using them as a logo on degree certificates, for example. This might satisfy the fair use criteria, although it would still be better to use a free use version if possible to be on the safe side. It's not so clear cut that we need to go around deleting all of the non-free coats of arms. Robminchin (talk) 00:29, 23 June 2020 (UTC)
Fair, I just think it depends on what we mean by arms, I feel like the role of "how the university projects itself" is the point of showing the logo, so generally free-use should be better Shadowssettle(talk) 12:49, 24 June 2020 (UTC)
This has come up before for a few country articles. In many cases a "fake" alternative was rejected because its not a true representation of a copyrighted item although it satisfied Harold criteria. And those that a very close in recreating the certified version end up being copyright infringements. That said fake version that may be non true representations are used all over and usually only removed AFTER a discussion.--Moxy 🍁 01:49, 22 June 2020 (UTC)
@Moxy: I don't exactly know what you mean by "Harold criteria" (feel free to link), but yeah, this is the reason why I personally have been cautious about replacing arms, because it's not an issue of heraldry, heraldry is generally quite clear that same blazon=same arms, it's an issue of what we mean by crest, do we mean the blazon, or do we mean how the university represents itself. However, I've seen Oxford as the lead example (not because of it's prestige, but because what it shows) of not only what we mean, but why we mean it. Oxford shows a (very neat) free-use emblazonment, but it needs to show it because any of the official renditions these days are too simplified, so do not match the blazon, or what people would be shown if they walked around Oxford looking at reliefs, read a history book or manuscript, wanted to know what this symbol meant when somebody was talking about Oxford, or wanted to know what the coats of arms are. It's just how the University wants to brand itself right now. The arms shown match how Oxford is represented in churches, books, buildings and the like around the country (see commons for some); unlike logos, which are purely branding exercises, crests are frequently part of the historical fabric of some monuments and ties. The logo is the place to show the universities choice of mark and contemporary branding, and if the crest isn't a lead emblem for the university, it's probably not used that often (outside of regalia) and so the official rendition isn't that important.
This boils down to why even show the crest(and no, I'm not bringing up the argument of if "we should get rid of it", that's been around too many times, please do not bring it up): it can't be to show how the University sees itself—many don't really use their crest much—instead, it's because these are the official symbols of the institution, which have historical, legal, and encyclopædic value. Logos and emblazonments come and go, but the crest is a unique identifying symbol that is used (in the United Kingdom at least, which is what this discussion is on) to frequently distinguish institutions. Note, this is not an attack on any points; I don't know where you stand on the issue, I was just trying to clarify Shadowssettle(talk) 08:51, 22 June 2020 (UTC)

Doctorates, etc, from unaccredited colleges[edit]

How should biographies describe academic qualifications (?) from unaccredited schools? Feel free to join the discussion (and of course to roundly disagree with me) here within WP:BLPN. -- Hoary (talk) 01:39, 22 June 2020 (UTC)

  • Trust me, folks, that link is worth clicking on. EEng 19:05, 22 June 2020 (UTC)

Help with DeVry University[edit]


I am attempting to publish several very straightforward updates to DeVry University. I believe these will benefit the encyclopedia as they all replace out-of-date information. As I have a WP:COI, I can't make these edits myself without an independent reviewer(s). The first proposals are Talk:DeVry University#Request Edit May 27. Thank you for your consideration. NaturaRagazza (talk) 16:12, 24 June 2020 (UTC)

@NaturaRagazza: I have responded on the talk page and added the {{request edit}} tag to add this to the list of outstanding requests: the process is explained in Wikipedia:Edit_requests. TSventon (talk) 16:46, 24 June 2020 (UTC)

"Colleges and universities" or "universities and colleges"[edit]

We are inconsistent in whether articles, lists, and categories use the phrase "colleges and universities" and "universities and colleges." For example, :Category:Universities and colleges exists and has many members. On the other hand, there are many lists that use "colleges and universities".

This is not a significant problem and it's more of an annoyance so I'll understand if no one else cares. But in my experience, "colleges and universities" is the phrase that is commonly used, at least in the U.S. A Google ngram search of the default English corpus appears to confirm this.

Is this just a difference in national and regional varieties of English that should be left alone? Or is this an inconsistency that we can agree to address by requesting titles be changed (which should be pretty easy once we have determined that there is a consensus via the appropriate processes)? ElKevbo (talk) 20:15, 24 June 2020 (UTC)

"Colleges and universities" seems preferable, if only because it is in alphabetical order. Calidum 20:26, 24 June 2020 (UTC)
Universities and colleges seems (very subjectively) to sound more natural (well to at least my ear) by following the English "rule" of preferring the close vowels first, as also found in ablaut reduplication, to some extent. It also is the pattern used across Commons, and I think is by far the more common standard on Wikipedia categories. I feel it might also be down to terminology, in America they're not the same, but they are to many people, but in the rest of the world college can often mean further, not higher, education, or even secondary education. By putting universities first, it makes it a little clearer for non-Americans that this isn't for high schools. I'm not sure, but I think you'll find international lists prefer u & c over c & u. But, yes, overall these are very tenuous points because it's minor Shadowssettle(talk) 00:07, 25 June 2020 (UTC)
Agree with Shadowssettle – at least in British English, "universities and colleges" is preferred when referring to university-level institutions, and is found in, e.g., Universities and Colleges Admission System. Where "colleges and universities" is used (e.g. [3]), it is implicitly (or explicitly, as in the example linked) referring to both further and higher education, not just higher education – which won't show up as a difference in a search of the corpus. Robminchin (talk) 00:43, 25 June 2020 (UTC)

I agree with the above that U & C is better than C & U, but also point out that colleges are sometimes part of universities such as London, Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and Melbourne, Sydney and others in Australia. --Bduke (talk) 00:50, 25 June 2020 (UTC)

I appreciate the non-U.S. viewpoints and opinions. Any ideas why the Google ngram results above so overwhelmingly favor "colleges and universities?" Does the default English corpus include that many more U.S. sources? ElKevbo (talk) 01:07, 25 June 2020 (UTC)

You'll find the preference too in Google's corpus of British English. As has been said this is all very tenuous, because it's very minor, and I don't like anecdotal or "sounds to me" evidence, I mean even ablaut patterns take a very back seat in lists in English to priority or "closeness", this and that, home and away/abroad, here and there, us vs. them. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence and the Google results really is all we've got. I would probably just focus on the point earlier that to at least the ears of the Brits here, with colleges and universities, the prioritisation of colleges implies that this is equally about late-secondary and further education, as well as universities, like a "what do you do after year 11 or 13". For example, on the national Quality Assurance Agency's website, they use universities and colleges when specifically talking about higher education providers, and avoiding the "top universities in the UK"-style "help" websites, results such as government results for colleges and universities tend to be about all of late-secondary, further education, and higher education providers, such as this example from Surrey County Council. However, there are probably counter examples, so again this is very tenuous, but I would say for the UK at least, "universities and colleges" sounds better unless you're focusing on the late-secondary (A-levels) and further education. As Robminchin said, we're used to the University and College Union and Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. I'd also like to note (I think thanks to redirects) there isn't much difference on Wikipedia U&C 240 C&U 226 when I tried Shadowssettle(talk) 08:39, 25 June 2020 (UTC)
ElKevbo the ngram should be for "colleges and universities,universities and colleges" rather than "colleges and universities,university and colleges", then a UK, US or default corpus can be selected. The British corpus "only" favours "colleges and universities" by around 2:1.
On the wider question I prefer "universities and colleges" for the category as (in my experience) the international categories are dominated by universities. In non English-speaking countries HE institutions tend to use the university name in English as it is more widely recognised than college. When discussing "universities and colleges" categories some editors argue that "college" is a term not widely used outside the US and the UK. TSventon (talk) 08:44, 25 June 2020 (UTC)
ElKevbo – as I pointed out above, and as others have also said, the phrase "colleges and universities" does exist in British English. But it doesn't always mean the same thing as "universities and colleges". Due to "college" referring to post-16 (further education) institutions in British English, putting universities in the context of colleges normally refers to all post-16 education, i.e. both further and higher education institutions. Putting colleges in the context of universities, as in the various examples given for "universities and colleges", normally refers to higher education institutions. This is a difference in meaning that cannot be discerned with an ngram. A second issue is that (I think) an ngram search will also pick up the triple "schools, colleges and universities" construction that is used to refer to all educational institutions; there doesn't seem to be a way to search for phrases containing commas in the Google ngram viewer, so it's hard to know how important this is. Robminchin (talk) 16:15, 25 June 2020 (UTC)
I would think that it is a US/UK thing. In the US, "colleges and universities" is standard. RedHotPear (talk) 19:42, 2 July 2020 (UTC)
For information, the discussion that decided to use "universities and colleges" was Wikipedia:Categories for deletion/Log/2006 December 30#Colleges and universities. TSventon (talk) 09:26, 4 July 2020 (UTC)

Please help improve the format of a University President article[edit]

There is an article about Judy Genshaft the former president of the University of South Florida that is very badly formatted. I have created a draft, and a list of specific proposals, to dramatically improve the structure and format. None of these are content changes. Talk:Judy Genshaft#Please help improve the format of this article Since I have a personal relationship with Genshaft, I’d be grateful if an independent editor would review and decide whether to implement this proposal. I am posting this here, rather than Request Edit, since it is a substantial restructuring of the article, not a straight-forward request edit. I don’t think this is contentious but an editor here will be a better judge. Rocky.abcd (talk) 18:33, 25 June 2020 (UTC)

Well my first suggestion regards the opening:
Judy Lynn Genshaft (/ˈɡɛnˌʃæft/; born January 7, 1948) was President of University of South Florida from 2000 to 2019. She stepped down from the position in July 2019 after a 19-year tenure.
Surely it's unnecessary to tell the reader twice that she left the presidency in 2019, and that 2019 − 2000 = 19. EEng 22:40, 25 June 2020 (UTC)
I think that we pay way too much attention to college and university presidents and give them way too much credit for the work that is done by many others so I choose to not spent my personal time working on articles about college and university presidents. But it might be helpful to know that the most common failing that I see in these kinds of articles - one shared by the current version of this article - is too narrow of a focus on the subject primarily or exclusively as a "university president" with not enough attention paid to their other accomplishments, challenges, and biographical details. This is most strongly seen in the lede of these articles which often begin with and sometimes only define the person as a college or university president to the exclusion of the rest of their education and experience in other jobs and broader disciplines. Bluntly, these are humans with rich, complex lives that preceded and will follow their tenure as a president. Few if any were explicitly and solely trained to be a higher education administrator so focusing too narrowly on that one job sells them short and makes the article much less interesting and informative than it should be. I suspect that much of this is because many of these articles are written by marketing and public relations staff that work for the institutions or editors that draw heavily or solely on institutional sources that are inherently and intentionally biased and promotional. These should be biographies, not promotional hagiographies that assign credit for all institutional accomplishments to these individuals. ElKevbo (talk) 23:55, 25 June 2020 (UTC)

RfC closed, what next?[edit]

There were many widespread views over the recent RfC for "prestige statements" in the lead. As I'm new to the RfC process, I'm wondering what happens next. Once again (as earlier) I'm not trying to preëmpt anything, it's just WP:RFC is light on the details after closing. Whilst the closing might be seen as a positive outcome to many editors (including myself), I think we're all well aware there are many who would find it some degree of problematic. There was some comment about the relatively small input on the RfC compared to those elsewhere, although I think we may all recall that was partially by design—there was a desire to keep this somewhat within the project. My first question is what we do:

a. Should we give a little bit of time before any widespread change if there is some form of appeals or counterarbitration process, whereby trying to effect change now could be wasted effort?
b. Should we enact it as soon as possible to bring what I think our primary goal for all with this RfC was: consensus and consistency

My second question is how binding the RfC consensus is. It's clear the breadth of impact of the closing was very narrow—only affecting clear prestige statements in the lead—but to what level does it impact:

1. It's a project-wide consensus, so is the "law of the land" and guiding consensus for project articles, until a new project-wide, or broader such as encyclopædia-wide, consensus is applicable.
2. It's a project-wide consensus, but other article-specific RfCs are more relevant than this, such as those at Harvard.
However this goes against any aim for consistency, and could lead to a slew of new RfCs for inclusion, all with article-specific editors with possible COIs eagerly involved (I'm not implying here that any editor that contributed to the RfC has POV issues, just that if you bring it to specific articles, you're likely to engage editors who do)
Also note these RfCs might've closed differently given this consensus, so may no longer be applicable (or maybe, I'm asking because I don't know)
3. It's a default state, but editors are free to go completely against it whenever and it'll take another RfC for each individual new incident or problem

I'm not asking for any further debate here, I'm just wondering what is the next step, given how RfCs are treated

@S Marshall: I don't know if you're meant to get involved post-closing, but seeing as you're often involved in the RfC process it would be helpful if you could explain what happens next. Shadowssettle(talk) 11:17, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

  • As of now, editors are encouraged to begin implementing the outcome of the RfC. You're likely to encounter reasoned objections on some pages. Please consider them, debate them as appropriate, and if necessary, refer back to this page for input from others, but the presumption is that descriptors such as "prestigious" would be removed.
Wikipedians are, generally, pro-social but grumpy; they're grudgingly process-compliant and truculently consensus-focused. I'd normally expect fairly widespread observance of this RfC, together with plenty of moaning about it.
The RfC is not the law of the land. It's the consensus on a project page. Commonsense exceptions might apply.
There's scope for discussion about whether any previous consensuses are overruled by this consensus, and if so, to what extent.
There's certainly scope for editors to disagree with my close. There are two routes for them to do that: firstly, an appeal, which would normally begin on my talk page and then escalate to the administrator's noticeboard; and secondly, a larger-scale RfC that seeks more input, perhaps by being advertised on WP:CENT. Either of those routes could change the outcome here.
Hope that helps—S Marshall T/C 11:34, 27 June 2020 (UTC)
@S Marshall: Thank-you for clearing that up. Sorry if the question was silly, this is just not one of the processes I've been through. Have been around long enough to get used to the nature of fellow editors; it's just there were some strong views and a lot of work put in so I wasn't (/am not) sure if things would be different with this. Thanks again for the explanation, sorry for troubling you. Shadowssettle(talk) 11:45, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

@S Marshall: Also, sorry about this, by "relative rankings" do you mean simply "is ranked as one of the best in Froopyland" or including "ranks 19th in ThisSpecificTableI'vePickedForPurpose for many of the past years" (relative to other universities) Shadowssettle(talk) 12:09, 27 June 2020 (UTC)
It means both.—S Marshall T/C 12:52, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

Discussion on close[edit]

S Marshall — first, thank you for putting in the work to close this discussion. It is, as with all your closes, clearly thoroughly considered. However, I have to disagree with your closing rationale, which I'll address in two regards.

First, you write that NPOV's WP:SUBJECTIVE section "obviously refers to the works of Shakespeare, Monet, and Bach, rather than institutes of learning". However, the section is titled Describing aesthetic opinions and reputations (emphasis added), and although most of the examples are artworks, after providing one it states More generally, it is sometimes permissible to note an article subject's reputation when that reputation is widespread and informative to readers (emphasis again added). The "more generally" clearly implies broader applicability.

Second, more numerically, we need to consider that the options are not equidistant from each other, but rather P2 and P3 both favor inclusion of some sort, whereas only P1 opposes it. Thus, the count of !voters who favored some sort of inclusion vs. those opposed was 10 to 5. I could see a possibility of finding no consensus given a count like that, but to find in favor of the 5-person minority would require an unusually strong justification, and I do not see such justification here, especially given the widespread potential ramifications of this discussion.

Regards, {{u|Sdkb}}talk 17:52, 27 June 2020 (UTC)

  • There's relevant discussion on my talk page.—S Marshall T/C 18:02, 27 June 2020 (UTC)
    S Marshall, brought up there. Also, I have to say that I think your advice to Shadowssette above to start immediately implementing was ill-conceived. They have gone and made dozens of mass changes to article leads. You surely knew that your close was likely to be contentious, and by immediately advising implementation before the result has solidified, all of these discussions are now going to be muddled and need adjustment if the result is modified. {{u|Sdkb}}talk 20:07, 27 June 2020 (UTC)
@Sdkb: Ahoy there! I have mostly implemented rankings changes, limited to UK universities, a set of universities I am happy to restore if need be. However, I am not content to do so to the WP:CHERRYPICKING of older years and rankings designed to push a POV, which I would've removed earlier had this discussion not been in process, which could've been seen as jumping the gun. Almost all the changes to prestige statements I have implemented, especially those to international universities, had no sources, let alone reliable sources, and where clearly full of soap. The only prestige comments I recall being backed by any sources, let alone respectable ones, were Oxon Cantab, which I would be happy to restore to pre-consensus if this is explicitly overturned and the further processes are underway. I know we are all against the POV nonsense found on some pages, which is uncited drivel added often by undeclared-but-later-turns-out-in-discussions-or-summaries COI parties, and goes against any of WP:RS, WP:NPOV, WP:PEA. As I just said, anything which is current rankings or well-sourced prestige statements I can reinstate if need be (unless someone else wishes to) after such an overturn (when I have the time).
I would like to congratulate you on not falling into the trap of getting my username wrong, however, I would like to disagree with the categorisation of "mass changes to dozens of articles": they we're not that big, often only removing mostly cherrypicked rankings and years, and they we're almost entirely well-contained to a paragraph of the lead. Shadowssettle(talk) 10:24, 28 June 2020 (UTC)

Further RfCs[edit]

@Sdkb, Robminchin, EEng, ElKevbo, RedHotPear, Dhtwiki, Drevolt, Jonathan A Jones, DGG, and Hippeus: (et. al, sorry if you haven't been pinged (or have and didn't want to be)) I think it's unclear still if the close was right, although it seems to be leaning towards it being problematic on WP:AN. As I have said, and will say again, I think it's most important that a reasonable consensus is found, and it's a shame that these leaves us not only without a close, but more importantly, without a community consensus (especially given that there were many in the project who have expressed a feeling the close was entirely imposed).

With the aim of trying to bring about some agreement, I think it's important that the process continues. I would suggest the following things didn't work well in the previous attempt:

  1. The input pool was small. Although ElKevbo rightly pointed out that they had listed the discussion in some prominent places, it seems like it was not as effective as we might've hoped, and the rest of us did little to share it. It might've helped to spread the RfC (rather than just the initial talk discussion) on to some more prominent uni pages, I don't think that ended up happening (although this obviously raises concerns about possible COI editors being attracted)
  2. The three options didn't seem to work out. Although numerous editors specified their first and second preferences, much of interpretation of the results was too focused on the editors first choices, and the lack of clarity led to ambiguous results where really they could've been quite clear cut. I would suggest making a simpler question, followed by a supplementary question if needed.
    1. Simply (α) "Should descriptions of prestige be avoided entirely in article leads?" or (β) "Should descriptions of prestige be treated as promotional information requiring caution above and beyond simply independent, reliable sources?", the first grouping P2 and P3 for the oppose, the second grouping P1 and P2 for the support
    2. If one of the "grouped" results gains consensus in the first part, we follow up with either (α) "Should descriptions of prestige be treated as POV by default, requiring multiple expert sources?" to compare P2 and P3, or (β) "Should descriptions of prestige be allowed if they are backed up multiple expert sources?" to compare P1 and P2.

I don't care if route α or β is taken, and the questions or approach should obviously be rewritten, these are just examples, however, I do feel that a staged approach can ensure that the lack of clarity or tend towards no consensus might be easier to avoid. Obviously, as I am new to the RfC process, I would appreciate more experienced editors telling me that I'm wrong. Shadowssettle Need a word? 12:40, 29 June 2020 (UTC)

  • Regardless of which path we take, we should until the dust has settled at WP:AN where a review of the above RFC is still ongoing. Calidum 15:56, 29 June 2020 (UTC)
Shadowssettle, I agree with Calidium. Just as you did above, you've jumped the gun here. FWIW, though, I don't think the formulation of P1-P3 was the issue above (they were exceedingly carefully constructed by ElKevbo), and I don't think your formulation captures the difference between them m {{u|Sdkb}}talk 17:28, 29 June 2020 (UTC)
@Sdkb: Sure. Apologies, I seem to be doing this too much. I guess we're all frustrated in one way or another by the way this has turned out. As I said, my suggestions were purely that, and not meant to dictate or be good exmplars, just to clarify what I meant by separating out the problems, sorry if you found them clumsy.
The original P1-P3 were well posed, and credit should go to ElKevbo, however, although it initially seemed like a good idea, I would now disagree that the having multiple options on a scale will work with the way that these RfCs have worked. If the alternative is to be no consensus (not P1, P2, P3 or such), I would still like to consider some route we can take to form a consistent consensus across what has been at times a patchwork of different implementations. Shadowssettle Need a word? 18:05, 29 June 2020 (UTC)
No need to apologize, I didn't think you meant we should have an additional RFC immediately. But, even if the close was not contested, I think it is a good idea to wait a bit and consider what we want to discuss in the next RFC(s).
In my opinion, one flaw in the above RFC is that it asked participants to treat a school's "general reputation [and] prestige" the same as "relative rankings," because those should be considered separately. Generally speaking, I believe a college's reputation and prestige can and should be discussed in the lead, provided it is reliably sourced. I am much more reluctant to use individual rankings in the lead. For instance, while I think it is acceptable to call the University of Bologna "one of the leading academic institutions in Italy and Europe [and] one of the most prestigious Italian universities," I think the previous lead of Imperial College London seen here is unacceptable. Calidum 15:27, 1 July 2020 (UTC)

RfC has been reopened[edit]

Since the RfC closure has been overturned and the discussion reopened, all suggestions here about opening a new RfC or implementing the earlier closure should be considered to be put on hold - or at best to be speculative until the RfC is finally closed. In the meantime, additional comments can be made at the RfC. -- MelanieN (talk) 19:30, 2 July 2020 (UTC)

  • I am sorry but I got lost. Where is the new discussion? -- Otr500 (talk) 12:43, 4 July 2020 (UTC)


CAT:NN has a crazy backlog - over 1300 articles just in the Academics section [4], some of which have been waiting almost 12 years. They tend to be assessed less well than most articles as many people feel ill-equipped to tackle them - please help! We'd be extremely grateful, as at the moment it is out of control. Thanks, Boleyn (talk) 15:11, 6 July 2020 (UTC)