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The Daily Tar Heel

UT Officials Disregard Party School Ranking

Each year, Princeton Review releases a publication called "331 Best Colleges," which ranks colleges nationwide in nine main categories.

The 2001 edition, which was released Monday, indicates that Louisiana State University -- ranked first in the party school category last year -- has passed the torch to UT.

But the award is a dubious honor at best for the administration and the university's reputation, said UT spokesman Bill Dockery, adding that administrators are not taking the report seriously.

"We don't see (the ranking) as a valid measure of our campus," he said.

Dockery said administrators would not make additional efforts to crack down on underage drinking to eliminate the schools' new party image.

"The party school status will change," Dockery said. "But our commitments to academics and our commitments to our goals will not change."

Dockery said it was important to note that UT is not only the flagship university but the oldest public university in Tennessee and has strong agricultural and accounting departments.

But officials at Princeton Review say the study is a valid measure of all of a campus' qualities because it encompasses a wide variety of social and academic facets of student life.

Though Dockery admits that UT students do party, he said the party atmosphere is not considerably greater than at other universities.

Similar to Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, "the strip" is a collection of bars in Knoxville where many UT students go for a night on the town, he said.

Mustafa Hersi, editor of The Daily Beacon, UT's student newspaper, said the university allows students to either study hard or party hard. "We're not as one-dimensional as the ranking suggests."

LSU officials also put little emphasis on the Princeton Review title last year, said Gene Sands, executive director of LSU university relations. "We put no stock or credibility in the survey."

Sands said students and parents must look for more important measures of a school quality -- such as graduation rates and state funding -- when searching for a future college.

"People have to understand it is another variation of tabloid journalism, just like what you can see in the checkout line in the grocery store," he said. "Next they will be printing how many students have seen aliens."

But Erik Olson, editor of 331 Best Colleges, said Princeton Review took precautions to avoid instances of fraud that could skew results. "We stand behind our survey 100 percent," he said.

Olson said the survey is not empirically based but one of quantitative student results. "We aren't measuring how many gallons of beer are poured out of a keg," he said. "It's based on student opinion."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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