After a year in the national spotlight, the University of Wisconsin is no longer the top party school in America, according to The Princeton Review's annual rankings.
The rankings, which were released Aug. 21, dropped UW to the No. 4 slot, behind the University of Texas, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University.
While some students may be disappointed with the university's new ranking, UW Provost Patrick Farrell said the university does not grant much credibility to The Princeton Review at all.
"I don't even know how they decide," Farrell said, laughing at the mere mention of The Princeton Review's party-school rankings. "I am not the least bit upset."
Farrell acknowledged the fact that UW students keep active social lives, but added he does not want the school's party scene to overshadow its academic merit.
"It is great if students who come here have a healthy social life. It's a good part of college; it's fun. I have no problem with that," Farrell said. "I worry about the culture of alcohol use. I don't appreciate when we or others celebrate that as a major attractor."
According to Robert Franek, author of The Princeton Review's "Best 361 Colleges," the rankings are generated through an 80-question survey sent to the entire student body of the schools on the book's list.
"I believe that there is value in the opinion of college students," Franek said. "We all know that college is a lot more than just a classroom — it's going to be a student's home. And we want to make sure the college-bound student understands everything that school has to offer."
According to Franek, if a school is ranked high on a particular list, such as the party-school rankings, it can provide an opportunity to spark an initiative from administrators or campus groups.
One such group pushing to reform UW's party-school reputation is Policy Alternatives Community Education. PACE is working to reduce student drinking — a trend it sees as an ongoing problem, UW's new ranking notwithstanding.
PACE Director Susan Crowley said the university's drop from No. 1 to No. 4 does not indicate that binge drinking is a problem that can now be ignored.
Currently, her group is looking into ways to reduce the amount of alcohol at house parties as well as to pass a city ordinance that would allow people aged 18 and older to attend live music events at bars.
Both of these initiatives, Crowley said, would provide a safer social environment for students.
According to Crowley, The Princeton Review party-school ranking is entirely without merit because the survey is based solely on student surveys, ignoring any "hard data."
"[O]n one hand, it indicates that there is a really vibrant social scene on this campus," Crowley said. "But it also diminishes some of the other aspects of this campus that are so important to students."
Franek said he knows many university administrators "poke holes in our methodology," but added he feels the student involvement lends a level of credibility to the book. His intended audience, Franek said, is not university administrators, but rather prospective college-bound students and their families.