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They're all wrong: ASU is not a joke

Popular criticism of ASU is often misinformed and undermines ASU students

John Oliver references ASU on his show, Last Week Tonight, in Sept., 2016.

John Oliver references ASU on his show, Last Week Tonight, in Sept., 2016.

Popular media doesn’t give ASU much credit. Echoes of ASU being a party school — or as Stephen Colbert called it, a “degree mill” — are all too familiar for ASU students.

In the NBC series "30 Rock," Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, remarks, “A parent is the one person who is supposed to make their kid think they can do anything: Says they're beautiful even when they're ugly, thinks they're smart even when they go to Arizona State.”

On "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver explained the United States’ refugee-vetting process by noting, “It is difficult to vet people coming out of a war zone, but it’s not like we’re just letting anyone in. We are the United States of America, not Arizona State.”

In truth, ASU should be regarded as much more than simply a convenient target for cheap jokes about higher education. Jokes about ASU’s rigor, selectivity and student life are not just fun-and-games: These attacks are ill-founded, and they degrade and disrespect ASU students and faculty.

ASU does have a particularly high admission rate, accepting 83 percent of applicants in fall 2015. However, I believe this high rate is something to be proud rather than ashamed of. ASU has worked hard to establish itself as inclusive and accessible, a goal which all public universities should strive for. After all, education is a public good and ASU is a public university, so valuing access should be both natural and necessary. 

Those who criticize ASU because it doesn’t reject enough students need to reassess their logic. It doesn’t make sense to value exclusivity over diversity, or to think that better ideas form when fewer people are sitting at the table.

“We are not measured by whom we exclude, but by whom we include and how they succeed,” said an ASU University spokesperson in a statement. “Educational attainment is the single most determining factor in moving Americans up from lower income to the middle class, and ASU is committed to providing a quality education for those who seek to pursue a college education regardless of geographical location.”

Education is empowerment, a principle for which exclusivity is counterproductive.

Criticisms centered around the rigor of ASU programs or the caliber of ASU students wrongfully undermine school and student credibility. These criticisms are also misinformed. 

For example, ASU is ranked as the number one producer of Fulbright scholars and the number five producer for Fulbright student awards. The Wall Street Journal ranked ASU as fifth in the nation for producing the most qualified graduates. ASU programs in fields such as journalism, engineering, business and public affairs are nationally recognized for their quality.

As ASU students, we should feel proud of our university. Popular media needs to leave behind outdated stereotypes and misinformed jokes about our university. Society needs to open its eyes and realize that it is possible for a higher education institution to be both inclusive and competitive. 

In short, ASU deserves more credit than figures such as John Oliver and Steven Colbert would like to give it. After all, we are number one in innovation (No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 M.I.T.). 

Reach the columnist at or follow  @MiaAArmstrong on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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