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Party-school fame fleeting

BY REBECCA MORIN | AUGUST 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa has lost its crown.

The UI was named No. 2 party school in the nation, dropping from the top spot, after the Princeton Review unveiled its party-school rankings on Monday.

Syracuse University jumped from No. 5 to the top of the list as No. 1 party school in the nation.
UI President Sally Mason said in a statement Monday in response to the new ranking that high-risk drinking poses a risk to the health and safety of college students, as well as jeopardizes academic success.

In the last five years, Mason said, binge drinking has dropped 23 percent at the UI, and instances of frequent drinking —10 days per month — have dropped 31 percent.

“I’m glad that more and more of our students are making healthier, safer choices, but I know that there is more work to be done,” she said in the statement. “We will keep up the effort. The success and well-being of our students is the top priority at the University of Iowa.”

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According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 31 percent of college students met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse.

In addition, 6 percent of students met the diagnosis of alcohol dependence in the past 12 months, according to institute statistics.

Joe Brennan, the UI vice president for Strategic Communications, said the university has had a plan in place to reduce high-risk drinking at the UI since 2009.

“We’re pleased to see that we’re moving to the right direction on the party-school list,” he said. “However, the data that matter most to us are the ones that show decreases in high-risk drinking behavior.”

Last year, the UI ranked No. 1 in “Lots of Hard Liquor” and No. 4 for the “Lots of Beer” categories.
The university stayed in first for “Lots of Hard Liquor” this year. In addition to dropping in the party-school ranking, the UI also dropped down to No. 9 for the “Lots of Beer” ranking.

“It’s not clear to me that the Princeton Review actually measures the same thing that we would measure,” Brennan said. “They ask two or three questions about student’s perception of alcohol use on campus. It’s not exactly the same data we get from health-focused surveys.”

Several downtown owners are unfazed by the drop in ranks for party school.

Bo-James owner Leah Cohen, who also serves as a board member of the Partnership for Alcohol Safety, said she believes the downtown scene has gradually changed after the 21-ordinance was passed.

The 21-ordinance was upheld in November 2013 after being put on the ballot. The ordinance prohibits people under the age of 21 from being in bars past 10 p.m.

“I think [the party-school ranking] is a lot of hype. That’s what it is,” Cohen said. “I don’t know if it makes any difference to anyone. I think it’s probably beneficial for the university if we are not at the top.”

George Etre, the owner of Takanami and Formosa and a former downtown bar owner, echoed Cohen’s belief.

With a new movie theater, as well as new restaurants that are not really bars such as the Iowa Chop House, he said, the downtown district is more than just a place for students to party.

“There is so much more than just the bar scene,” Etre said. “There are more options downtown now more than ever, alcoholic options, but also nonalcoholic options. It doesn’t just revolve around the bars, so there’s very good variation and diversity.”

Despite some officials and community members believing the ranking will not change the downtown scene, some students have seen the UI’s “partying” as detrimental for their futures.

Alyssa Billmeyer, the president of the Graduate & Professional Student Government, said the group will continue to promote the importance of readiness for job placement upon graduating.

“We want to get as far away from that party-school direction as possible,” she said.

One underlying issue of being slapped on a top party-school ranking, she said, is evident in the job interviewing process.

 “When going to other states and interviewing for jobs, one question that always pops up is, ‘What do you think of your school being pegged as a No. 1 party school?’ It’s not fair to us or any student at the University of Iowa because we’re trying to get this job, and you’re being pegged as a partier,” she said.

Daily Iowan Convergence Editor Quentin Misiag contributed to this story.


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