A year on top: UI sobers up

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By Joseph Longo, Assistant News Editor

 

In August of 2015, The Princeton Review designated the University as the top party school in America. A quick year later, the title has been passed to another Big Ten school: the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The University now claims the title as the No. 3 party school in the nation.  

During the 2015-2016 school year, the title as No. 1 dominated discussion on campus. Administrators, University police and students across campus all addressed the designation.

However, the campus remained divided. While many students warmly embraced the title across social media, other community members contested the ranking.

Faculty and staff notably disagreed with the title. Robin Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs, challenged the credibility of the rating.

“This pseudo-ranking is nothing more than a promotion for Princeton Review,” Kaler wrote in an email.

Kaler considers the ranking a disservice to students.

“Whatever ranking they attach to us is insulting to our students, who are some of the brightest, most hard-working scholars anywhere,” Kaler said.

In addition to number three party school, the University ranked highly on several Princeton Review lists.

Concurring with the party school designation, the University ranked seventh on the “Lots of Hard Liquor” and 10th on “Lots of Beer” list. The University was also named eighth for “Lots of Greek Life.”

The Princeton Review also included the UI as one of the “Best 381 Colleges,” “Best Midwestern,” and “Colleges That Pay You Back.” Specifically, it ranked 24th on “Top 50 Green Colleges,” 20th on “Career Services” and fifth on “Best Athletic Facilities.”

The Princeton Review did not immediately return request for comment.

A freshman’s perspective

For Daniel Shim, freshman in Engineering andLAS, it was this diversity of acclaim that led him to enroll in the University. He wanted a perfect mix of “social life, academics, campus and sports.”

“When people are looking for schools, they’re not only looking for academics,” Shim said. “They want the experience, so they want to be able to have fun while they’re trying to learn.”

A New Jersey native, Shim researched the social life at each of his top three schools: Villanova, The University of California-San Diego and the University of Illinois.

“Academics was first, but the social — number one party school — kind of did play a factor,” Shim said.

Shim does not consider the ranking as important, but rather a nice add-on. Within his first few weeks on campus, he noted the University lived up to its reputation.

An unwelcome recognition

While the ranking factored in to Shim’s college decision, I-STAR University tour guides do not emphasize the title.

Rhett Buchmiller, a tour guide and senior in LAS, said the Office of Admissions does not like the ranking. During open question panels, tour guides parlay a somewhat prepared response. He notes their answers are not scripted.

“In training, they tell us to be completely honest with our answers no matter what, but we also always have to spin it to make sure it’s positive,” Buchmiller said.

His go-to response often depends on the phrasing of the question. Like Kaler, Buchmiller notes the studies are not scientific and suggests that they can be skewed easily.  

Because of the University’s large student population, partying is inevitable, he said. However, he emphasized the other opportunities and interests available on campus.

Questions regarding the ranking range from concerned to proud, Buchmiller said. Alumni specifically tour differently and often interject their own experiences.

“Fifty percent of them are concerned moms who are worried about their son or daughter going here and going crazy,” Buchmiller said. “And the other 50 percent are sarcastic dads who like to make us sweat when we’re standing up there in front of the crowd.”

As a tour guide, Buchmiller despises the ranking because of the difficult questions that come with it. However, as a student he does not care about the title.

While he believes most students share this perspective, he noted a small percentage of students take the ranking seriously.

“They’re not going to college to get an education; They’re going to college to have fun,” Buchmiller said.

A campus safety concern

Part of the University’s notoriety as a party school stems from the annual Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day celebration held every March.

In recent years, the two-day weekend celebration has scaled down as a result of repeated liquor related emergency orders issued by previous Champaign mayors. Additionally, University police increased the number of officers patrolling the streets.

As a result, 160 overall violations were issued to individuals during Unofficial last year.  This is a slight increase from the 138 ordinance violations issued on Unofficial in 2015.

For University of Illinois Police Department Spokesman Pat Wade, a discrepancy exists between the party school notoriety and the toned down event.

“That’s kind of what I’m saying about this whole party ranking; We don’t think it’s based in reality,” Wade said.

Wade noted that the ranking did not impact UIPD operations last year. Instead, they always remain highly active in combating alcohol and partying violations.  

“We understand that they’re going to (party) and that’s totally fine, but we want them to do it in a way that’s safe for them and safe for everybody else,” Wade said.

Two other Big 10 schools ranked in the top 10 of the party school listing. Wisconsin-Madison ranked first and the University of Iowa ranked sixth.

Wade noted partying and alcohol are common discussion between the Big 10 universities and all colleges. He said each year the Big 10 administrative campus law enforcement discuss alcohol and other campus safety-related concerns at the Big 10 chief conference.

“We’re constantly talking to other campus safety agencies about what they’re doing,” Wade said. “What are some of the best practices? “What are we doing well? What maybe we can approve on?”

Regardless of the ranking, Wade said UIPD’s primary concern is to maintain and encourage the safety of students.

“That’s not going to change by any ranking from some publication who’s trying to sell magazines,” Wade said.

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