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Evans: Party school ranking doesn't mean anything

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | AUGUST 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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Yes, the University of Iowa is a party school. Yes, the university jumped to second place in the latest ranking. Yes, Hawkeyes tend to drink a lot.

No, I don’t care.

Hear me out, guys: Don’t start writing the letters just yet. Obviously, binge drinking is a problem for UI students. And it’s easy to point fingers at the current UI administration when you read about the university bringing home the silver medal for partying.

But let’s look at the facts.

The high-risk drinking rate for UI students is down 9 percent from 2009. And it’s the lowest it’s been in 10 years.  

The Princeton Review’s survey wasn’t exactly scientific. It was voluntary, so any current Hawkeye with a computer and an imagination could supply juicy encounters.

And there was little, if any, verification of popular opinion — I could have written that Olivia Wilde came down from heaven and partied hardy with the boys from Phi Delta Theta, and the Review would have eaten it up.

There’s no one to blame here — the administration is not at fault.

UI spokesman Tom Moore echoed the sentiment that the publication’s rankings were loosely based on factual data.

“We find it amazing that any one pays attention to such an unscientific, invalid survey,” he said. “There’s no validity to it whatsoever.”

There are decreases across the board in the number of drinks consumed, percentages of students drinking at all in a 30-day period, and of students drinking 10 or more days per month — all according to the National College Health Assessment Data for 2012.

“Among all the rankings published by various media outlets, the Princeton Review’s stand out for its complete lack of objective, scientific methodology,” wrote Moore in an email to The Daily Iowan.

“Its rankings are based almost exclusively on anecdotes and random, subjective feedback.” 

Moore noted that most of the data concerning drinking at the UI are more positive than negative.

And this ranking will have hardly any effect on reality. Sure, groups of drunken students can shout, “We’re No. 2,” in bars and dorm rooms, but nothing substantial will change on campus.

Kelly Bender, the UI campus community harm-reduction-initiative coordinator, said the administration’s commitment to addressing the binge-drinking culture is not affected by less-than-scientific polling.

“We don’t change strategies based on rankings like these,” she said. “It creates community awareness, which is positive, but we know the problem won’t be solved in a couple of years.”

Bender said that in addressing the binge-drinking culture in Iowa City, the administration uses solutions based in scientific evidence.

So, yeah, drink to your second-place trophy — but don’t kid yourself that the ranking means any more than a bro fist in the air and a masculine beating of the chest.


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