In 2013 and 2014 the Princeton Review included Ohio Wesleyan in its guide to green colleges, which included more than 300 schools, ranked in no particular order. The Review, one of the leading college admissions service companies, ranks schools on dozens of categories.
This ranking caught the attention of several students on campus, including Ellen Hughes. She thought OWU didn’t deserve to be featured, and questioned some of the information presented.
In both years, the guide listed OWU as having a full-time sustainability position on staff; in April 2014 the position had not been present for 10 months. Hughes also questioned programs listed in the guide, particularly an inter-dorm water-saving competition that she wasn’t familiar with.
“I could be totally wrong, they could be real programs that are really successful but nobody knows about them.”
– Ellen Hughes
Sean Kinghorn also said he considered some aspects inaccurate, such as the water-saving competition and preferred parking for low-emitting or fuel efficient vehicles, and that he didn’t know who sent the information to the Princeton Review.
When asked who sent the information, Jeanne Krier, publicist for the Review, said they got it from Kinghorn himself. Kinghorn said he didn’t send it in.
Krier declined to provide the original communication that led to OWU’s inclusion, citing a general company policy.
OWU’s media and communications director Cole Hatcher said he didn’t know who sent the data to the Princeton Review, but he thought they used the same set of data for 2013 and 2014. This would explain the continued listing of an OWU sustainability coordinator in the 2014 guide.
When asked about the quality of the Princeton Review listing, Kinghorn said he thought their lack of a ranking system makes it less reputable. The Princeton Review does gives schools scores, but doesn’t release that information.
“That ranking isn’t based on any statistics, there’s several university rankings that are actually based on data and Ohio Wesleyan’s not on any of those rankings. All your peer schools are.”
– Sean Kinghorn
Kinghorn instead recommended the “Cool Schools” list created by the Sierra Club, which does include data-based rankings.
Their 2014 ranking includes the other Ohio Five schools: Oberlin College (ranked 25), Denison University (70), Kenyon College (113) and the College of Wooster (160.) Ohio Wesleyan is not included among the 173 ranked schools.
Out of the 13 institutions in the Great Lakes Colleges Association, OWU and three others did not make it on the Sierra Club list: Antioch, Kalamazoo and Wabash Colleges. Of them, OWU was the only one ranked by the Princeton Review’s 2014 Green Guide.
The North Coast Athletic Conference also had four of their ten members left out: OWU, Hiram College, Wabash and Wittenberg University. Of those four, OWU was the only one ranked by the Princeton Review’s 2014 Green Guide.
The Sustainable Endowments Institute had a nation-wide College Sustainability Report Card, which was active until 2011. Their latest report, using data up to March 2010, gave OWU an overall B- with additional rankings in specific categories.
Among the Ohio Five, Oberlin led with an A, Denison received a B+, Kenyon a C+, and Wooster came in last with a C-.
Hughes also raised concerns about information on the university’s sustainability section. This section of pages is the first result when ‘sustainability’ is searched for on the OWU website.
At the time of writing, the section did not appear to have been updated since February 2012, and the “Updates” page still directs “thoughts, comments or questions on campus sustainability” to Sean Kinghorn’s OWU email address, even though he left the university in the summer of 2013.
An email sent to the account was returned, though, as the account does not exist anymore.
In any case, the sustainability task force has created their own blog, run by member John Krygier, which has taken precedence over the website’s section on sustainability.