UMass falls from national list of top party schools

By Will McGuinness

While new students will be drinking in the UMass scenery during opening week, returning students may be drinking up in hopes of restoring the University to its former glory – or disrepute.

UMass, once a staple of The Princeton Review’s national ranking of the top party schools, has fallen off the list completely this year. The University placed ninth on the list in 2006 and rose two spots to seventh in last year’s collection of The Princeton Review’s 62 rankings, compiled in its annually published guidebook, “The Best 366 Colleges.” First published in 1992, the guidebook is a comprehensive look at all aspects of the college experience, including faculty, financial aid, and dining services.

According to the review’s Web site, the ranking is based on a combination of survey questions directed at UMass students addressing the use of alcohol and drugs, hours of study each day, and the popularity of Greek life.

Though the omission of UMass from the notorious national ranking of party schools could be considered a move in the right direction, towards shedding the University’s infamous reputation, UMass spokesman Patrick Callahan called the survey “junk science,” devaluing it as neither credible nor valid. “The ranking is based on a random opinion survey of a small number of respondents,” he said.

Dr. Jack M. Wilson, President of the University of Massachusetts, echoed Callahan’s criticism of the methods used in the survey, but acknowledged that the administration has made efforts to improve the reputation of the University.

“As a scientist, I am acutely aware that the methodology behind this particular survey is so fundamentally flawed that it would be impossible to infer causality. That said, I am a strong supporter of the efforts that have been made at all levels to create a safe and secure campus,” Wilson said.

On average, The Princeton Review fields responses from approximately 325 students per school. UMass currently has 19,823 enrolled undergraduates.

About 90% of the surveys were completed by students online while 10% were done on paper on campuses.

According to Adrinda Kelly, Senior Editor of The Princeton Review’s “Best 366 Colleges: 2008 Edition,” any inclusion into the guidebook is an endorsement of the college. Potential students need more information about a college or university than just its academics. The guidebook is designed to help find the best fit for the potential college student.

“Our mission is to reach out to the customers of the college to inform potential students of things they wouldn’t get from a brochure,” Kelly said, “Students should be aware of UMass’s robust party scene.”

One UMass student’s comment in the “Campus Life” category reads, “Parties are available, but not required. Drinking is big here, but not totally out of control like some say. Off campus is an entirely different concept. The townhouses and off-campus apartments have been known to hold parties of over 1,200 people. Those can be a little intense.”

The review ranks UMass as fifth in the category of “Their Students (Almost) Never Study.” The University was also ranked number 17 in “Long Lines and Red Tape,” 12 in “Campus Is Tiny, Unsightly, or Both,” and 20 in “Least Happy Students” categories.

Despite surroundings, long lines, and unhappiness reported by students interviewed by The Princeton Review, the University was featured in the organization’s publication, Colleges with a Conscience: 81 Great Schools with Outstanding Community Involvement and is featured as one of the best colleges in the Northeast.

Anyone interested in rating the school for next year’s edition can do so online at http://survey.review.com.