If you're a college leader filling out a peer survey for U.S. News & World Report, make a copy.
Or two. Put one in your bottom drawer and give another to your secretary.
Just don't expect to ever get it back from the news magazine.
The peer survey is one of several components U.S. News uses in putting together its annual Best Colleges issue, a brisk seller whose pronouncements are routinely trumpeted by universities that rate well.
Essentially, college leaders get to rate their academic programs on a 1 to 5 scale. Anonymously.
None of this would have been of much public consequence had a data analyst from Clemson University not give a Seminar Heard 'Round Higher Education last month at a conference. Catherine Watt, who worked in institutional research at Clemson and thus was responsible for compiling data sent in to U.S. News for its rankings issue, offered a peek behind the process. In part, she said that leaders at her university and others generally gave low rankings to all their peer institutions in order to make theirs look better.
Of course, Clemson higher-ups quickly put out a statement denouncing Watt's story.
Here's where it gets more interesting.