Last week, The Princeton Review released its ratings of universities in America: "The Best 345 Colleges: 2003 Edition." Usually, the yearly findings are released without much fanfare, but this year, critics of the "Top 20 Party School List" included in the school rankings spoke up.
Most notably, the American Medical Association called for the Princeton Review to remove the "Top Party Schools" ranking from the "Best Colleges" guide, calling it "misleading" and accusing the list of giving college-bound students a skewed perception about partying on campus.
The Early Show discussed the merits and shortcomings of this year's Princeton Review's controversy with Robert Franek, Editorial Director of The Princeton Review and Dr. Henry Wechsler, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Studies Program.
The list has mostly been a controversial listing since its inception. University officials have never been happy to have their schools included in this list and, in the past, have grumbled and groaned about the validity of the "Party School" rankings.
The AMA's "A Matter of Degree" program said that the party school list is "misleading, and gives college-bound students a skewed perception about 'partying' on campus." Dr. Richard Yost, director of the "A Matter of Degree" program (aimed at reducing alcohol consumption among college students) and the AMA's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, says "The Princeton Review should be ashamed to publish something for students and parents that fuels the false notion that alcohol is central to the college experience and that ignores the dangerous consequences of high-risk drinking. College binge drinking is a major public health issue and a source of numerous problems for institutions of higher living."
The AMA further contends that the "Party School List" adds to the problems of on-campus binge drinking, assaults, sexual assaults, and even deaths by "legitimizing high-risk drinking."
The Princeton Review asks, "Why shoot the messenger?" Franek says the Princeton Review doesn't promote drinking but promote information. Princenton Review says its book contains Party School list, a Stone Cold Sober list and 60 other lists on other aspects of campus life.
The Princeton Review gets its information from a 70-question survey sent to random students at all the colleges included in the Guide. The rankings in the 2003 edition of the Guide are based on surveys of 100,158 students at 345 colleges (about 300 students per campus on average) during the 2001-02, 2000-01, or 1999-2000 school year.
The student surveys include questions about school academics, campus life and student body, as well as study hours, politics, and opinions. The Princeton Review says that all surveys are done with the permission and cooperation of college administrators at each school, and that no school has ever paid to be included in the Guide or to be surveyed for it. For the top party schools list, students' responses to questions about drinking, marijuana use, Greek system involvement, and average studying time are tabulated to come up with the top party schools.
"We understand the concerns colleges have about binge drinking," said Franek.
One of the flaws that university officials - specifically, from larger schools - see is the number of students surveyed from each school. Indiana University, this year's No. 1 ranked "Party School," says that polling only 300 students for each school will not give an honest opinion of a large student body. They say you can't get an honest representation from one percent of the student body. And even if The Princeton Review polled more students, it still doesn't give an honest representation of what students feel about the campus.
"It's positively unscientific," said Dr. Wechsler. "There is possible way that the Princeton Review could accurately rank schools 1-20 as the top party schools. It's impossible to do, it's stupid to do, and it's inaccurate."
Contrary to the "Party School Ranking," several students at Indiana University interviewed shortly after the list was released, seemed to believe that university crackdowns on parties and on-campus drinking have lessened the amount of partying at IU greatly. After a drinking-related student death in 1998, IU has buckled down on on-campus drinking, going so far as to suspend and even expel several fraternities.
Top 20 Party Schools
- Indiana University - Bloomington
- Clemson University
- University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa
- Penn State University Park
- University of Florida
- SUNY at Buffalo
- University of New Hampshire
- University of Colorado, Boulder
- Florida State University
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- The University of Texas at Austin
- Michigan State University
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Louisiana State University
- University of California-Santa Cruz
- University of Tennessee
- New York University
- Ohio State University-Columbus
- Virginia Tech
- Tulane University
Top 20 "Stone Cold Sober" Schools
- Brigham Young University (UT)
- Wheaton College (IL)
- United States Air Force Academy
- United States Naval Academy
- United States Coast Guard Academy
- Cooper Union
- California Institute of Technology
- United States Military Academy
- Centenary College of Louisiana
- Haverford College
- Illinois Institute of Technology
- College of the Ozarks
- Golden Gate University
- College of the Atlantic
- Calvin College
- Mount Holyoke College
- Simmons College
- Saint Anselm College
- Wellesley College
- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
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