The Anguish of Rankings

Janny Wang - 2A Nanotechnology Engineering
Posted on: November 14, 2018

The student body of the University of Waterloo had a collective panic attack at precisely noon on the second of November, which continued for some dozen minutes until WaterlooWorks proceeded to live up to its names. The attack continued, in somewhat abated form, until the following Monday afternoon, when it reawakened with vigour.

The search for jobs and the looming fear of unemployment or menial labour cannot but be stressful- there is very little the university can do in that regard, except to proffer helpful speeches now and again. An additional source of uncertainty is introduced, however, by the ranking system of WaterlooWorks.

For the benefit of the uninducted; if an employer rates you a one, then it is plainly shown in the light of day. If they rate you between two and ten, it shows merely as Ranked, and the student is left to meditate upon the permutations and probabilities therein.

This is a trial of the spirit and the imagination; oft trotted is out is the parable of the Foolish Goose, who, seeking greener pastures is California, gambled upon the grace of the algorithm and ended in seeking recourse at Employment Canada. The natural counterpoint is the parable of the Wise Goose, who humbly ranked everything a one and thereby avoided the trials of Continuous.

There is a third parable, a sort of heresy shunned by the officials and whispered only in dark corridors; the parable of the Anxious Goose, who ranked everything a one and then spent his summer as an Expert Fertilizer Handler in the north of Manitoba.

The present ranking system plays upon the natural fear of the students to incentivize us to bestow freely the rank of one and to accept any offers we might receive. It is impossible to know whether the employer considered you a close second or a lowly tenth and compared with the looming spectre of unemployment, a semester in swampland seems almost palatable.

All this is to the great advantage of the employers, who are tolerably assured of one neurotic per posting, but it confers no very great boon upon the health and spirits of the neurotic.

Not being able to see the ranking means that students are groping in the dark for a sensible strategy to maximize their chances; at our precarious stage, when money is scarce and experience paltry, missing out on a potential co-op because of a twist of the algorithm presents a significant economic, professional, and often mental detriment.

Allowing students to see their rankings would allow them to make an informed decision when ranking employers. This will by no means silence the gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth common to this era, but it would prevent students from following the path of both the Foolish and the Anxious Geese

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