The Wall Street Journal ranked Yale’s School of Management the ninth best business program nationwide this year, a four-place drop from its last ranking.

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business came in first this time, with Dartmouth and Carnegie Mellon placing second and third, respectively. The rankings, now in their sixth year, are based on a survey of 4,125 MBA recruiters who ranked the schools based on student and school attributes they find most important when hiring. Although SOM’s overall ranking dropped, the school came in first in corporate social responsibility, a category introduced this year. Administrators said they will be more interested in future years’ rankings after recent changes in the SOM curriculum take effect, while students expressed a mix of reactions ranging from satisfaction to disappointment to disregard.

“It is important to point out that recruiters filled out the survey before we embarked on many of the changes that we are undertaking, such as the new curriculum,” SOM Dean Joel Podolny said in an e-mail. “Our task right now is to execute on the ambitious curriculum that we are now implementing, to continue to enhance other aspects of the school, and capitalize on the momentum of our increased placement rates for our students.”

Yale President Richard Levin said he does not think SOM’s decline in the Journal’s ranking is consequential.

“It’s hard to put too much weight on any of these rankings,” Levin said. “They are very sensitive to the measurements that are used.”

SOM’s dip in the rankings this year is the result of both a decline in recruiters’ view of the school and a more significant increase in their view of Yale’s peer institutions, said Brenda Roberts, the senior research associate at Harrison Interactive — the firm that conducted the survey in conjunction with the Journal.

“There was a slight decline in the positive perception [of Yale],” Roberts said. “There’s been a dramatic increase in the positive perception of other schools.”

Roberts said the corporate social responsibility category was created in response to feedback from schools and the increased focus on corporate responsibility nationwide. Podolny agreed with the need for the category but said the corporate world’s responsibility should go beyond lip service.

“The term ‘corporate social responsibility’ has only recently become a widespread and accepted part of business language as a way of describing the desire for corporations to do good while they are doing well,” Podolny said. “As that term catches hold, it will be important to make sure that it is more than just a rhetorical phrase, that corporate social responsibility implies a high level of professional accountability, bringing hard-headed business skill and thinking to that aspiration of doing good while doing well.”

The Journal’s rankings differ from those of its peer publications in that they rely solely on the responses of MBA recruiters. Some other ranking systems incorporate statistical data such as the average starting salary of graduates and surveys of peer institutions’ deans and directors.

Julia Delich SOM ’07 said she was sorry to see Yale drop, but she believes its reputation will remain intact.

“I’m a little disappointed that we dropped because there needs to be that positive perception of the school,” she said. “But even though we dropped four points, Yale has an unmatched brand globally.”

Nicholas Kafes SOM ’07 said he expects the changes currently made in SOM’s curriculum will be reflected in the rankings two to five years from now, and that as long as SOM doesn’t experience a more significant drop, students will be satisfied.

“As long as we stay in the top 10, people will be pretty happy,” Kafes said. “That’s not saying [the drop] is a good thing, and I’m not necessarily happy about it.”

Podolny said students should refrain from making judgments about schools solely based on rankings.

“We take all feedback — positive and negative — into account in deciding what we must do going forward, and we try not to overweight short-term movements in either a positive or negative direction,” Podolny said in an e-mail. “I believe that students should do the same; they are information, but they are just one source of information, and short-term movements should not take precedence over the substance of what they are able to discern about a school.”

Kafes said he was more concerned with the business school rankings of the Journal’s peer publications.

“Let’s see how we fair in the … Business Week rankings,” Kafes said. “Those are the ones that are more closely scrutinized as the benchmark indices.”