ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When a college guidebook declared Macalester College students godless, the school president suggested students write to the publisher saying they ''pray a lot or something'' to avoid the ire of religious alumni.
But after President Michael McPherson's e-mail was circulated around campus, students complained he was trying to skew the survey's results and he apologized.
Macalester, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, ranked No. 1 in the category ''students ignore God on a regular basis'' in the Princeton Review's new edition of ''The Best 331 Colleges.''
Robert Franek, the guide's author, said 308 of Macalester's 1,700 students were surveyed and a ''vast majority'' strongly disagreed to the statement that Macalester students are very religious.
''People generally get upset with me, but this is the first time an administrator has gone out of his way to change the survey results,'' Franek said.
In the e-mail to an assistant dean two weeks ago, McPherson wrote that ''it would be easy enough to get 10 students or something to log in and say they pray a lot or something.'' The Princeton Review accepts input through an online survey.
The assistant dean forwarded McPherson's note to the school chaplain, who sent it to about 100 students.
McPherson said he wasn't asking anyone to lie. He just feared the guide inaccurately depicts Macalester's students.
Many students were amused.
''It's a stupid survey,'' said Nick Berning, 21, a senior. ''We're not Bob Jones University but there's a fair number of religious students.''
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