GW students traded in their kegs of beer for internships on Capitol Hill, according to the 2000 edition of the Princeton Review guidebook, The Best 331 Colleges.
The latest guidebook, released last week, did not list GW in the top 20 party schools as it did three years ago, but GW did outshine many other schools in the categories of “most politically active,” “great college town” and “long lines and red tape (administration gets low marks).”
“Of all the D.C. schools profiled in this book, none exploits its location in the nation’s capital as extensively as (GW),” according to the book.
The rankings are based on interviews with more than 59,000 students at the nation’s top colleges. At least every three years, pollsters head to schools across the nation and ask students to rate their schools in areas from academics to campus life.
The latest survey conducted at GW was during the 1998-’99 school year, and 88 students filled out the 70-question survey, said Robert Franck, director of Guidebook Publications for the Princeton Review.
To rank high on the party school list, students polled must answer that beer, hard liquor and drugs are widely used, the fraternity scene is popular and the amount of time the average student devotes to studying is low, said Jeanne Krier, the publicist for Random House Princeton Review Books.
Krier said while GW may have dropped in the party-school ranking, this does not necessarily indicate less substances are used, popularity of fraternities decreased or the amount of study hours increased. Krier said one factor that may have shaken up the rankings was the addition of 32 new schools to the list and the removal of 11 performing arts and design schools.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said even though he agrees with some of Princeton Review’s findings, he is still wary of the rankings.
“As skeptical as I am about U.S. News & World Report, I don’t believe a word of anything the Princeton Review has to say,” Trachtenberg said. “I think they must sit in a room somewhere and make up things. All these things are cheesy, or `sketchy’ as my son would say.”
Trachtenberg said he does not put much weight in the No. 2 party-school ranking GW had two years ago. But he said he believes firmly in the No. 17 “red tape” ranking, with only a bit of skepticism.
“Who could beat us in that category?” he asked. “I find it incredible to think that anyone beat us. We’re so close to the definitive beast of red tape – the federal government – that it makes us overly bureaucratic. Our model in town is the big boys.”
Trachtenberg and students said they were shocked that GW was ranked 12th in the politically active category.
“I’m surprised we’re not higher,” freshman Holly Kirk said. “It seems everyone here is into politics in one way or another.”
Ed Custard, lead author of the book, said while he knows students and administrators tend to get caught up in the rankings, especially the party school one, he feels it is important for a school not to pride itself or belittle itself because of one ranking.
“These are just descriptions,” he said. “These rankings just give a description of the atmosphere at a school. It’s not supposed to be an honor, and it’s not supposed to be negative.”
But some students said falling off the party school list is negative.
“GW is pretty tame – tamer than I expected,” freshman Kara McPhillips said to her friends lounging with her on the benches outside Thurston Hall. “We were the No. 2 party school? Where were we? We’ll see what we can do about that.”
While some students are lamenting GW’s descent from the top of the party list, administrators said they are unaffected.
“I’m totally indifferent,” Trachtenberg said. “Nobody invited me to any of the parties anyway.”