Oh how the mighty have fallen. Penn State, which once held the infamous #1 party school rating back in 2009, has seen its ranking plummet to 11th nationally. The rating from the Princeton Review comes at a time when the last thing Penn State needs is another hit to its reputation. Given everything that’s happened, is this such a bad thing?
Back in 2009, while many in Beaver Canyon, (or more likely in their suburban Philly/Pittsburgh residences) celebrated, many others — including faculty — gave a collective sigh of disappointment. Penn State has always been a place where academics and college lifestyle could coexist. In my years in this community, I have listened to alumni from all walks of life reminisce about their times both in library stacks and on bar stools. Can the two coexist in balance or will one always outweigh the other?
That remains a question up for debate, but I believe that in the past Penn State has shown the ability to maintain that healthy balance.
I was a freshman at the time of the 2009 ratings release. I can still recall feeling a sense of concern for the image Penn State was acquiring. I hoped I was wrong. Sure enough, at social events outside of the Happey Valley bubble, I heard Penn State people mention–even boast–of the #1 ranking. But as some of you may remember, in December of 2009, NPR’s This American Life dedicated an episode to the drinking culture at Penn State. To some, it was a report from a grumpy local. To others, it was a wake up call to address the reputation that Penn State was garnering — and in some cases, celebrating — because of its students.
Rather than address the issue, some university leaders, including then-president Graham Spanier, cast aside the report as a tactless and a weak representation of Penn State University student life, citing the fact that the ratings are entirely student generated. In a faculty senate meeting from Fall 2009, Spanier said; “You know why we’re ranked number one? Have we talked about this? You know why we’re ranked number one? The students vote! It’s not like somebody came in here and did an assessment of the place. It’s an online, web-based thing. And whenever there’s an online, web-based thing, Penn State always wins.”
Spanier may have been correct to some degree that the voting of passionate partiers cultivated the #1 rating. But were the results entirely incorrect?
Last week, Penn State earned yet another acknowledgment for its accomplishments as one of the top 50 universities world-wide. It was impressive to hear students and faculty champion our recognition as a premiere academic and research institution. This is the chance to celebrate national prominence.
During a period where we as students have had to deal with a storm of events entirely out of our control, and worry of the reputation hit that Penn State students are experiencing — justified or not — the student-driven party rankings are an area where we do have some control.
In the past week, Penn State received national recognition in two starkly different fields. They show on one hand success, and on the other signs of progress. It is acceptable to go out and have a few beers with your friends after a hard week, but make sure to remember why you are here, and what we can do while in the position to improve this great university’s reputation.
If you’re interested, the top 10 “party schools” are as follows:
1. West Virginia University
2. University of Iowa
3. Ohio University
4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
5. University of Georgia
6. University of Florida
7. University of California
8. Florida State University
9. Miami University of Ohio
10. Syracuse University