By Dorie Turner Associated Press
ATLANTA — The University of Georgia won a national title this year — top party school.
The Princeton Review announced today that Georgia is the No. 1 party school on its now infamous annual ranking. The school of about 30,000 students has been on the list 10 times since the ranking was created in 1992, but this is the first time the university has taken the top spot.
For the campus — surrounded by nearly 100 bars in tiny downtown Athens — parties are just part of life from August to May each year. Many students gear up for the weekend on Thursdays and sometimes don’t rest until Monday morning.
“That’s what people look forward to starting Thursday — Thursday night is the new Friday night,” said junior Andrew Chappell, 20. “The party atmosphere is such a big part of Georgia.”
University of Georgia spokesman Tom Jackson said the list is not one the school wants to lead. He said he’d rather emphasize that the school made Princeton Review’s top 50 “Best Values” list or the “Green Honor Roll” of the nation’s top environmentally conscious campuses.
Georgia beat out Pennsylvania State University, West Virginia University and the University of Florida — which were the top party schools over the last three years. Those three made the top 10 this year, while Ohio University ranked second.
The ranking comes after several years of work by University of Georgia administrators to curb drinking on campus and tone down the party atmosphere.
Since 2006 — when a student died of an overdose of alcohol, cocaine and heroin in his dorm room — university police have been hauling underage drinkers to jail rather than simply giving them a ticket. School administrators call a parents on the first offense and suspend a student for two semesters after the second alcohol violation.
“The University of Georgia takes student alcohol education programs very seriously and will continue to do so,” Jackson said.
Those efforts weren’t helped when athletic director Damon Evans stepped down last month after being charged with drunken driving. Evans had appeared in a video message played before home games urging Georgia fans not to drink and drive.
The ranking is based on e-mail surveys of 122,000 students at more than 370 colleges across the country. It combines responses on alcohol and drug use on campus, hours spent studying outside class and the popularity of fraternities and sororities.
The surveys are filled out voluntarily by students, and on average about 325 students from each campus respond, said Rob Franek, author of the 800-page book put out by Princeton Review each year with nearly 60 categories of rankings.
Other rankings include best campus food, least accessible professors and most religious students.
“I want to make sure we’re giving any college-bound student a very clear example of what life could be for them at any of the 373 schools in the book,” he said.
Colleges dismiss the rankings as unscientific and complain that they glorify dangerous behavior.
In advance of today’s announcement, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson sent a letter to the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera newspaper criticizing Princeton Review and the rankings.
“What I get really upset about is this is headline-grabbing, and it’s extremely unscientific,” Benson told the newspaper. His school ranked 16th on the party list this year and No. 1 in 2003.
This year, Brigham Young University topped the list of “Stone-Cold Sober Schools” for the 12th straight year.
The Princeton Review is a Massachusetts-based company known for its test preparation courses, educational services and books. It’s not affiliated with Princeton University.