Opinion: The No. 1 party school and its problems

BY
EDITOR IN CHIEF

Many a Friday night, I’ve spent the evening in a vacant Morris Library, meandering to Main Street for a quick bite on my way home, forced to wade through the unceasing streams of underage inebriation. My Saturday grocery route now avoids Cleveland and Main, following an incident in which a beer can fell on my head. To anyone who’s spent even a moment on campus, there’s no question where the student body’s priorities rest.

All of this is self-evident, and probably not unique to UD. Most large state schools follow similar trends, as young adults, inspired by Blue Mountain State binges in high school, arrive on campus to do that perverse thing of “making memories” while frying neurons.

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The Review Editor in Chief Caleb Owens

But, as The Princeton Review has indicated, there’s something special about UD. Though none of our undergraduate programs rank first, we’ve compensated, the hard work and hangovers of students landing us the top party school spot.

The statistic is in-itself embarrassing, doing nothing for my efforts to convince my family that I’m receiving a quality education. But it reflects a deeper problem, and has deeper implications. The culture that supports the No. 1 party school is a culture that breeds mediocrity, that imposes a ceiling on intellect and academic achievement, one that surreptitiously robs students of an education.

When you have the amount of partying it takes to be No. 1, a certain amount of partying becomes normalized. Relative to the amount of partying that most kids do here at UD, a moderate-to-high amount of partying seems far less extreme than it objectively is. The expectations, the pressures to party “just a bit” and “have some fun” result in unusually large amounts of actual partying. Thus, even those who are convinced they party moderately arguably party excessively.

The repercussions of this are not contained to weekend nights. That large “little bit” of partying is a chunk of time no longer available to study, to engage in constructive campus activities, or just have interesting and stimulating conversations (which most frequently occur in sobriety, despite what you may think while you’re intoxicated). As a result, many professors are forced to adjust their expectations and lower their standards. Campus events, UDance excluded, fail to attract more than a slim fraction of students. The partying, its academic “hangover,” if you will, gets built into everything else.

Meanwhile, the party ritual carries students through the semesters, the years, as each week fills people with excitement, bringing its own cycle of regret, rationalization and anticipation for the next party. What follows is a systematic suppression of the student body’s academic potential.

Combine this with previous caps on intellect, such as the now-rescinded 17 credit-hour limit (which perhaps seemed reasonable in this context), and you’ve got a scam on your hands.

Yet, most activity under the Assanis administration has pointed toward academics. Plans to double graduate student enrollment, hire 250 new faculty, boost the undergraduate population and create new colleges and research facilities are moving forward full-force.

Evidently, there’s a direct correlation between administrative priorities and student priorities — as partying grows, so too do academic initiatives and administrative activity.

Upon a closer look, it makes perfect sense.

I’d venture to guess that, embarrassing though it is, our admissions department is throwing their own party in response to the ranking, just as any other university would. Partying is an irresistible draw for prospective students, and we’ve been put at the forefront. And considering that we’ve fared well in the party rankings the past two years, breaking the top ten last year, and considering that there have been virtually no efforts to reverse the trend, there is no evidence that changing our partying reputation is a high administrative priority.

So, as the new admits pour in, ready to party, they’ll shovel tens of thousands of dollars per year into the university. The STAR campus, faculty and graduate research and everything else that inflates the U.S. News and World Report rankings, not to mention administrative salaries, will be supported on the backs of unwitting undergrads, sedated by the allures of partying and “the college experience.” The party cycle will reproduce itself without fail, and students will receive an inadequate education without even realizing it. The bar will get lower and lower, while rankings (and students) get higher and higher.

Of course, “this is college,” and partying is just a fact of life, which is not entirely bad. Thus far, the university has seemed to adopt an approach of resignation, accepting the inevitability of our partying excesses and working to ensure that it occurs safely, through programs such as Amnesty and various health advocacy campaigns. That’s all fine, and follows the same, correct logic of sex education, acknowledging that an abstinence curriculum is futile and misled and just not fun.

But, in tandem with these efforts, the university needs to take direct preventative measures as well, not only to restore our reputation, but because the university owes it to the students that it’s robbing, and ought to make sure that employers don’t approach UD degrees with skepticism. Whether that means steeper penalties, cracking down on Greek life or raising academic standards, it’s not my job to find out.

But something must be done. When I came here two years ago, oblivious to the school’s partying reputation, I was promised a vibrant intellectual climate in Redding and across campus, not a cesspool of vomit and the constant blare of ambulances. Not guys lighting spliffs on longboards in my hallway and the constant pressure to “dage.” The university needs to make good on its empty promises to students, beginning now, should it have any interest in continuing to honestly call itself a place for “higher education.”

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COMMENTS

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  • comment-avatar
    Paul Mathews 1 week

    Caleb,

    I am struck by two things when reading your editorial: (1) 95% of the text is devoted to describing your complaint, and (2) your statement that “it’s not [your] job” to solve the problem. Why not? Why shouldn’t you be part of the solution? You are the Editor-in-Chief of the only on-campus student publication. You have a voice, and today you used it mostly to complain.

    Also, I doubt the administration would agree with your assessment that they are doing little or nothing to address the issue. I attended the university during the peak of its efforts to curb binge drinking on the late 1990s. As then, I am certain that there are lots of resources and efforts devoted to this problem, but the missing ingredient is a willing student population.

    There likely is no immediate cure or Band-Aid that would change the campus culture. However, the activity related to the long-term draw of more academically focused students is likely the most impactful work the university can do to change the campus culture. And they are doing that. In the meantime, use your voice while you have it.

    Paul Mathews
    BA English: Journalism
    Class of 2001

    • comment-avatar
      Amy Roe 1 week

      Having watched how UD handled the magnolia fountain incidents this spring (where UD police actually promoted jumping in the fountain, and then allowed students to binge drink while in the fountain in the middle of the night) I think that the description of the Administration’s normalizing of this activity rings true.

      The efforts to curb binge drinking that occurred when both you and I were undergrads at UD are not visible on campus anymore. There are serious problems here, and this Princeton Review ranking has just stated what is obvious to everyone who lives near campus now.

  • comment-avatar
    Rich black 1 week

    Newark police are responsible for maintaining order on main street. Campus police are responsible for ensuring rules on alcohol and drugs are met on university grounds. Clearly the newark city govt and UD administration have directed these agencies to be lax. Parents should file a class action suit to recover their tuition payments, as the university deliberately chooses to allow a dangerous situation to spiral out of control.

  • comment-avatar

    Caleb,

    That Princeton Review ranking carries no real weight. Just another organization that has made itself relevant by powerfully convincing people somehow that they are actually offering real value – and I just don’t think they are. It is a good idea to compile a database of student surveys from universities, but to use in them in a ranking system immediately skews each survey. Rather than present a complex, nuanced take on what campus life really is, they paint with a broad brush that only does a disservice to those in the minority, in this case, those not partying.

    And it is my opinion that once on campus, the ranking loses all of its meaning. You chose to go to the grocery store on Saturday morning. Other chose to drink. You chose to spend Friday night in the library. Others chose to drink. Others still, chose to attend a university-sponsored event, or if they were like me, found themselves alone in their dorm room with a controller firmly between my hands. Each of us had a choice to make: students choose whether they attend the “No. 1” party school or not.

    • comment-avatar
      Autumne 6 days

      Thanks Dylan for this thoughtful reply. I would agree…UDs student population is very nuanced when it comes to things they enjoy and how they spend their time. And while I believe that some of the monetary reasoning rings true, everyone chooses their university. And lots of those people who you’re condemning for partying get up for their 8 AMs just like everyone else. 

  • comment-avatar
    J Mills 7 days

    I am a 1970s alum of the university. The debates concerning our fine school’s level of alcohol use have raged for decades. A sober (sorry) look at the survey method reveals that we are reacting to journalism masquerading as social science. On average, less than 400 students on each of the campuses were surveyed, and there is no information about how respondents were recruited and/or chose to participate. So, what “data” are we really looking at here? I don’t appreciate the community consequences of widespread alcohol use, but this sanctimonious editorial and some comments have been (and certainly will be) made that reflect an emotional reaction that distorts some of the facts, interpretations, and recommendations. I will say that such a survey report does bring far more attention to the Princeton Review than the quality of their science would justify. I don’t like that my beloved UD is being characterized this way, but, for example, I do not believe that the municipality and campus administrations have any interest in reducing the rigor of law enforcement. The realities of enforcement are so complicated that we don’t really know what happens in the streets during these regrettable scenes. In addition, the extent to which the university is responsible for the personal behavior of students off campus is debatable. It is also important to consider the use of alcohol in the context of contemporary cultural trends. To some extent, students reflect trends in the culture and alcohol use is practically patriotic (ok, kidding here) if you watch the ads. I hope we can all do what we can to encourage healthy personal choices in students and the best possible solutions from University Administration and community leadership. A constructive attitude does not include reflexive recriminations and ill-considered solutions.

  • comment-avatar
    Anonymous 6 days

    I opened this article with an open mind, eager to learn how my peers, outside of my social circles, felt about this recent “ranking.” You seem to be convinced that somehow academic success and partying are mutually exclusive. While some choose to spend their free time at parties or bars, others may use that time doing things like playing music, playing a sport, watching TV, or doing any of the many things people choose to do with their time. The point is that it is their time, and no one is actually spending every waking moment studying, regardless of whether or not they party. Who am I, you, the Princeton Review, or anyone for that matter to judge how people spend that free time.  Just because your peers may choose to spend their weekends out with friends rather than in the library or studying, it does not mean that they are academically inferior.

    I maintain a scholarship, take rigorous honors courses, and fill each week with hours of philanthropic and academic extracurricular activities. I have friends who like to stay in, and I have many friends who like to go out. When I happen to have some free time, I tend to choose the party scene, and I still have been very academically successful. While I do agree that some students at UD, are not able to strike this balance between social and academic life, that seems to be more of the minority. It is not fair to group all students who party on the weekends into one bubble.

    The university still has a high academic standard to be accepted and to maintain status as a full time student. Many greek life organizations have an even higher academic standard. Even if this “ranking” attracts more applicants seeking a heavy social life, they will still need to be accepted into the university and maintain a minimum GPA to remain a student. Many of those attracted, like me, will have high academic aspirations as well and contribute to the university’s success as an academic institution.

    I believe that if I hadn’t been part of this “party scene” that earned this ranking, I may too have felt the way you do. But ultimately we need to realize that the presence of a large social scene does not create an absence of academic rigor. If you surround yourself with other people holding similar priorities as yourself, UD can be whatever you want it to be, regardless of our “party school ranking.”

  • comment-avatar
    Catherine ciferni 6 days

    I looked at UD almost 30  years ago, as a possible place to attend.   I asked the Ambassador what people did for activities here.  I wasnt much of a party person, but I loved threather, music culture museums fine arts etc.  The ambassador looked at me and said we drink for fun.  I believe this university self selects,, That is it tends to attract people looking for a very specific experience.  Others seeking more professional higher quality recreational social encounterswill go elsewhere, I did  wind up going to to a party school but it celebrated and advertised it’s other activities.  IT had midnight underground theatre, five theaters on campus, international films that people knew about, we took bus trips to famous sights, People looking for more tha.n parties will seek another place, particularly out of state students..people who associate recreation with binge drinking only has to count the number of bars relative to the number of students. To attend here.

    Even alumni weekend is a booze fest.

  • comment-avatar
    Anon 5 days

    Dude get a life and stop caring about what others do in their free time. If you didn’t want to go to a school with a party reputation you shouldnt have gone to Delaware. Im a STEM major and it is so easy as a student to find other things to get involved with around campus. The partying and this ranking by the priceton review only matters to those who actively participate in it, and can be easily ignored by those who focus on their own interests and life styles.

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