Don’t know why NU fell in online rank? Ph test has answers

Casey Newton

Yahoo! Internet Life’s annual Most Wired Colleges rankings are out, and once-mighty NU has dropped faster than an acid tab on Dillo Day to No. 41.

Why the plunge? I visited the home pages of the top digital dogs — Carnegie Mellon, the University of Delaware and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The difference between them and us? Their searchable online campus directories are simple, direct and don’t allow any attempts at humor.

NU, on the other hand, has Ph. And while the database of students, faculty and administrators can tell you anything about the campus you want to know, it also tells you most of what you don’t.

Go ahead — Ph “sex.” You won’t find it here. “Tailgates”? Not on this campus.

But “geek” or “dork” or “study too much”? You’d better believe it.

On a campus of 8,000 undergrads, you are your Ph information. NU students know this — and go wild editing their entries.

The result is a few gems — “Fax me? Fax you!” and “Pager? I don’t even know her!” are clever. McCormick junior Ravi S. Gogte has even created a disturbingly realistic portrait of Homer J. Simpson using only asterisks, dollar signs and the letter “m.”

And on a more personal note, it was on Ph that I found “Jesus” — 13 times, no less.

But most entries are so inane that if they didn’t contribute to our slip in the Yahoo! rankings, they probably should have. Just a few searches make it clear that this campus — and Ph — lack a “sense of humor.”

To wit: The legions who make tired jokes under “spouse.” Give me a bonus buck for every “still looking” or “not yet” or “Sarah Michelle Gellar” to be found in Ph entries, and I could give Old Man Weinberg a run for his money in the self-indulgent school-naming sweepstakes.

Ph entries also boast far too many inspirational quotes and song lyrics, ostensibly included to give you some insight into the person you’re Ph-ing.

But people whose info quotes the Bible — or, God forbid, the Dave Matthews Band — ought to Ph “reality.”

(Which I did. There was a single match, for a Noah A. Dzuba.)

Then there are the people who have chosen new titles for themselves. The “title” field’s prestige is somewhat tarnished when professors and deans must share space with a porn star (Hal M. Weitzbuch), the self-proclaimed “God of Rolling Rock” (Robert J. Mowry), and K’shkahsssh’kl, Bringer of Darkness (Douglas A. Callander).

At least NU has classy ladies. There’s nary a “skank” to be found on Ph, but we’ve got 17 princesses. Maybe someone just forgot to tell Yahoo! about all our “babes.”

But for crying out loud here, people, we’re ranked 20 spots below something called the Insect Zoo. And you just know that system’s full of bugs.

Looking at so much misguided Ph-ilosophy, I began to understand why we sunk so low. From banal nicknames (First Initial-Dawg!) to lame titles (“a simple duck herder”), most Ph jokes are about as fresh and funny as a Bob Saget fan page.

You can try to catalog all the offenses against logic, comedy, grammar or spelling in our campus directory, but you won’t be able to.

Too many entries to print.