Greek life, underage acceptance at bars score Illinois as a top party school

If you flipped on your television in recent weeks, you may have caught Jimmy Kimmel or CNN poking jokes at the Princeton Review’s recent list of the biggest and best party schools in the country. West Virginia University topped the chart, but our very own UIUC was not far behind in the No. 4 spot.

College rankings are well-known for molding the public’s perception of a particular university. Every year, the Princeton Review compiles a book that ranks the country’s universities on anything and everything, from the happiest students to most beautiful campus. The party-school list seems to be one of the most popular.

“I was pretty surprised that we were ranked No. 4. I know we’re a party school, but I didn’t know we were that big of a party school,” said Catherine Taich, senior in LAS.

Taich isn’t a stranger to the University’s party scene. As a member of Kappa Delta sorority, Taich is part of the country’s largest Greek system. But sorority girl is not the only thing on Taich’s resume.

“I founded two registered student organizations on campus. I started I-Style, a fashion club focused on PR and fashion careers; Grass Roots Soccer, which is a globally recognized philanthropy that puts on soccer clinics in sub-Saharan Africa. I am also president and editor-in-chief of HerCampus – Illinois that has officially became an RSO. I’m also the co-director of the Illini Public Relations Association,“ Taich said.

Taich and her resume are an example of a student who successfully balances school with many extra-curricular activities.

“We are a fun school and I think we have a good balance of students who are academically involved: involved in extra-curricular activities, and involved with a social aspect on campus as well,” Taich said. “I just think that students who don’t go here and look at that list have an unrealistic perception of campus.”

According to the Princeton Review website, their methodology for these rankings relies heavily on surveys.

“Biggest party schools are determined based on the answers to survey questions concerning: the use of alcohol and drugs at their school, the number of hours they study each day outside of class time and the popularity of fraternities/sororities at their school,” the website stated. “Schools on the ‘Party Schools’ list are those at which surveyed students’ answers indicated a combination of: low personal daily study hours (outside of class), high usages of alcohol and drugs on campus, and high popularity on campus for frats/sororities.”

Sean Grady, a 2009 graduate of the University and now the assistant general manager at Joe’s Brewery in Champaign, thinks that the ranking is a pretty accurate representation of the University. Grady mostly attributes the University’s high ranking to the large Greek community and the accessibility of bars on campus.

“I’ve been to Madison where Halloween is pretty big and I’ve been to Purdue and they have a lot of bars,” Grady said, “But I know we are one of the biggest Greek schools, especially in the Midwest, and that we also have a lot of bars on campus that allow people entry a lot sooner, so the larger scale probably impacts the ranking,” Grady added.

Grady discussed how events like Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and football games bring out not only a lot of students, but locals and visitors from other places as well.

“Joe’s capacity is about 1,000 people and we have people come out for all sorts of events,” Grady said. “Homecoming and football games draw large crowds along with Dad’s weekend.”

Grady added that although Greek life is a big part of the bar scene, the crowd at Joe’s draws a large number of non-Greek students in addition to Greeks.

Despite the University’s party scene, bars and parties are not the only forms of entertainment on campus.

Paddy Lusk, a senior in LAS, is the director of special events for the Illini Union Board (IUB), which is an organization that provides alternatives to drinking and the party scene.

“We have Illinites, which is a late-night program we do once a month on Fridays. It is a time where kids can come to the union and we have comedians and musicians and all sorts of fun activities for them to do,” Lusk said.

In reaction to the list, Lusk echoed Grady and felt that the University was ranked so high compared to other schools because many people gravitate here from other universities.

“The mix of students plus everyone else who visits just equals a larger scale of people who go out and there are more opportunities here to go out than other schools,” Lusk said. “I think a good amount of students here participate in the social scene, its not reserved for just students who are a part of the Greek life. Nerds can go out and have fun too.”

The Princeton Review’s ranking may lead to a lot of stereotypes about the University, but students like Taich and Lusk demonstrate how partying isn’t the only thing that goes on here.

Taich points out that in addition to the Princeton Review’s party school list, the University was ranked number one in PayScale’s “party schools with the highest mid-career salaries,” according to a Huffington Post article published last year. PayScale is a financial survey company that surveyed 1,003 colleges and ranked them for the highest mid-career salary. They then measured those results with the Princeton Review’s list of biggest party schools and came up with a new list called “Party Schools that Pay.” This examination is one example that combats the stereotypes that go along with a party school reputation.

“U of I is the college where you can get the whole college experience. Yes, you can go out and party, but you are also going to get one of the best educations that the country has to offer here, you just have to take advantage of it,” Lusk said. “You’re going to have a lot of opportunities to do a lot of different things, just go out when you can and work when you have to and learn to balance everything.”

_Saher can be reached at [email protected]_