Call to axe US 'party' tables

August 23, 2002

The American Medical Association has called on the publisher of a popular college guide to eliminate its annual ranking of the "top party schools" in the US.

It says the ranking and the accompanying publicity encourage alcohol abuse by students.

The 345 Best Colleges , published by the private college-preparation company Princeton Review, ranks US universities based on academic issues, but also extracurricular activities and the political beliefs and social experiences of students - including campus party life. The company, a division of Random House publishers, is not affiliated with Princeton University.

"Princeton Review should be ashamed to publish something for students and parents that fuels the false notion that alcohol is central to the college experience," said Richard Yoast, director of the AMA's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.

"College binge drinking is a major public-health issue and a source of numerous problems for institutions of higher learning," Mr Yoast said. The Princeton Review ranking, he said, "ignores the dangerous consequences of high-risk drinking".

The rankings are based on an annual survey of 65,000 university students who answer questions about the consumption of beer and liquor, marijuana use, fraternity and sorority life, and the ratio of hours spent socialising versus studying.

Last year's top party school was the 28,000-student University of Tennessee at Knoxville, which ranked first in beer, seventh in liquor, 11th in low study hours, 14th in marijuana use, and 14th in fraternity and sorority life. Second was Louisiana State University, followed by the University of California-Santa Cruz and Florida State University.

University administrators have also criticised the party rankings, but they are popular with students and provide vast publicity for the publishing company, released as they are at the same time as the book goes on sale - usually at the end of August.

Princeton Review officials said they had no plans to drop the list, which they said was an honest reflection of campus life. They also said the rankings did not glorify drinking, though last year they appeared under headings such as "Lots of Hard Liquor". Schools with little partying were listed under "Stone-Cold Sober Schools" and those with little drinking were labelled "Scotch and Soda, Hold the Scotch".

A study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said excessive drinking caused 1,400 deaths, 70,000 sexual assaults and 600,000 assaults on US campuses each year.

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