The rankings are in, and the University of Delaware is No. 1 – for partying.
The ranking comes from the Princeton Review’s “The Best 384 Colleges.” For its annual guide to colleges and universities across the country, Princeton Review surveyed 138,000 students at 384 schools.
The university’s No. 1 ranking shows a slight increase from last year, where it was rated No. 6 for partying. Other UD rankings included No. 1 for Greek Life and Hard Liquor, No. 7 for Most Popular Study Abroad Program, No. 9 for Lots of Beer and No. 11 for Students Who Study the Least.
According to the Princeton Review’s website, the student survey asks 80 questions in four sections about administration/academics, life at their college, fellow students and themselves.
While UD topped in rankings regarding the drinking culture on campus, Adam Cantley, interim dean of students, said the university is seeing a decrease in behavior associated with partying.
“I think the ranking is the perception and the opinion of the students that they ask,” he said. “We also collect our own data, and that’s why we have data that shows our binge drinking rates are actually decreasing on our campus.”
Cantley said the university has participated in the College Risk Behavior Study for 10 years. That survey takes a sample of undergraduate students – 2017’s iteration saw participation from 1,149 who received $5 for their responses – and examines their use of alcohol and drugs.
The survey found that 47 percent of students drink alcohol only, 29 percent reported drug and alcohol use, 1 percent using drugs only and 22 percent not participating in any substance use.
“I think it’s important for us because every college knows that substance use and abuse is something that they need to address,” Cantley said. “We want to make sure that we have really good, proven information that talks about our students’ behaviors; we want to know what their behaviors are actually, what they’re actually doing on our campus so that way we begin to look at intervention, support, programming, that we have really solid data to make really good, informed decisions.”
Cantley added that the university has several initiatives aimed at substance use on campus. He noted the Campus Coalition for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, which has been in place since 2011. That organization has representatives from the campus and the community.
“[It takes] a holistic approach to look at this issue,” he said. “They’re not only looking at policies, they’re looking at programming, they’re looking at accountability; they’re sort of looking at this from all angles and incorporating a lot of different voices at the table.”
As for accountability, Cantley noted that incoming students take an online course that looks at their relationship with substance use. Should a student be found in violation of university policy, Cantley said the university thinks the student “need[s] to learn from these incidents and grow from these incidents,” so they go beyond punitive sanctions.
“We have a very low recidivism rate for our student conduct process,” he said. “Majority of folks are in once and that’s it. I think the other thing is, an overwhelming majority of our students never even enter that process.”
Beyond that, Cantley said the university offers alternative programming so students don’t participate in substance use, which students acknowledged in the Princeton Review assessment.
“The student voice actually acknowledged a lot of the strong programming we do for students who are not interested in engaging in party-type behaviors. They talk about our late-night programming we have on the weekends, such as Perkins Live and Trabant Now that that we do every weekend for students to give them a space on campus,” he said. “We also do alternative programming on high-risk weekends that we know people like to drink, like Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.”
To some, however, the reputation of partying and substance use culture stretches beyond just UD’s walls.
“I think the impact on Newark is that it is a greater burden on the residents of Newark and the students that don’t care to participate in that culture,” said Jerry Clifton, city council member for District 2. “It really negatively affects those groups.”
Chris Hamilton, council member for District 4, noted that UD has frequently ranked high on the list.
“I don’t think the ranking itself has any particular impact on anybody,” Hamilton said. “I don’t think any business is not going to come and I don’t think people are going to avoid moving to Newark because of the ranking. I think it sends a subtle message that the students themselves are saying it’s a hell of a party school.”
Cantley said that the university strives to be cognizant of the community.
“That’s why when I look at that alcohol prevention coalition, that’s why it’s so important for us to make sure we had stakeholders from the city as part of that,” he said. “We know that they need to be part of the discussion and part of the solution as we look at making a healthy and safe environment, not only on campus, but in the community.”
He added, “People should know it’s definitely something we review and we consider and it is part of the puzzle of how we address substance use and alcohol use on our campus.”