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Party-school ranking miffs WVU officials

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University is the No. 1 party school in the country, according to a ranking released Monday by Newsweek magazine. WVU officials say it's an unfair label.

The ranking is based on disciplinary actions and arrests for drug and alcohol use on campus. The number of disciplinary actions taken for alcohol use at WVU for the 2011-12 academic year was 1,501, with 104 citations for drug use, according to Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

In addition, 551 arrests were made on campus concerning alcohol use, and 205 drug arrests were made.

The Department of Education numbers used in the report include nonstudents and are therefore an inaccurate measure of campus life, according to WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts.

"These studies do not look at campus layout, state laws on alcohol control and bar entry or city statistics for underage violations. Nor do they consider the fact that a campus may take a more aggressive enforcement stance of the violations that would be a deterrent," Roberts said. "I simply do not give these rankings much credence."

Roberts said many of the violations are for underage possession, and the numbers in the report can be viewed as a positive reflection of the school instead of a negative one.

"It's interesting that because we enforce the laws, they've interpreted that as a negative. Those numbers mean we are working hard to keep people safe. I'm not sure that makes us a party school," he said. "I don't understand how they came to that conclusion."

WVU beat Penn State University for the top spot, with the University of Colorado-Boulder coming in third place and Ohio University landing fourth.

This isn't the first time WVU has made it to the top of a college party-school list.

WVU has made the Princeton Review's annual list of top 20 party schools several times in the past decade. The university received that survey's top ranking in 2008 and is ranked sixth on the current list.

Becky Lofstead, WVU's assistant vice president for university communications, gave the Gazette an official WVU statement about the Newsweek/Daily Beast rankings Monday.

"Like most of the universities who regularly make these lists, WVU is a large, public university with major achievements in academics, research and outreach, as well as major athletic programs and success. Some of the best universities in the country typically find themselves on these types of lists because they, like WVU, enjoy a campus life rich with both academic and social opportunities," she said.

"As always, our first priority is, and will remain, the academic achievements and success of our students."

In an email, WVU student government President Zach Redding said the university is too often receiving attention for its party reputation instead of its academic excellence.

"Students express pride in our University, our school spirit and quality of academics they are receiving. They have a very positive view and don't like these misleading stereotypes," he said.

"It's true that students come to WVU and have a great time, but more importantly they have an extraordinary academic experience. WVU is a special place where talented students come from all over to learn and excel. It's also a place where some of the world's best faculty and researchers mentor students."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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