GW students live in some of the country’s most plush residence halls at one of the most popular colleges but are still some of the unhappiest coeds, according to rankings released last week by Kaplan/Newsweek and the Princeton Review.
The University was listed in six categories in the annual Princeton Review rankings, which rated 345 colleges and universities in dozens of off-color categories like “scotch and soda, hold the scotch,” “reefer madness,” “party schools” and “dodgeball targets.”
The rankings, which accompany a two-page description of each school, are calculated using student surveys and assigned GW:
6th “least happy students”
7th in “long lines and red tape”
9th in “dorms like palaces”
14th in “nobody plays intramural sports”
16th in “town-gown relations are strained”
17th “most politically active students.”
Even though more than 700 students are living in buildings that were formerly luxury hotels, the Hall on Virginia Avenue and City Hall, GW finished two spots higher than the Colorado School of Mining in overall unhappiness.
Princeton Review Senior Editor Erik Olson said the magazine calculated GW’s rankings based on 318 online surveys and 178 paper surveys over the course of the last two academic years.
Olson said the rankings are based on a high-degree of consensus among students and that rankings like GW’s listing as the 6th least happy school indicate a lot of agreement.
“We try to ask specific questions about life . and not give you the same information a tour guide would,” Olson said.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he was skeptical of the Princeton Review ratings, calling the listings “a game of blind man’s bluff.”
“You don’t have to be a professor of statistics to recognize that there are flaws in all of the ranking systems,” Trachtenberg said. “Princeton seems to be the most irresponsible of them all.”
While Trachtenberg said he agreed with GW’s listing in the “long lines and red tape” category, he was cynical of the unhappy students listing.
“Students vote with their feet,” he said, noting that with a 92 percent retention rate, most students are content at GW.
“If you put your hand on a flame, you pull it away . if people are unhappy, they would leave,” Trachtenberg said.
He said he has been working to eliminate “red tape” during his 14-year GW tenure.
GW also made Kaplan/Newsweek’s list of the 12 “hottest colleges” in their annual college guide, in a list that included Boston and Kenyon Colleges, University of Maryland- Baltimore County and the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill.
The ratings were based on application numbers, opportunities and “what students are looking for overall,” Kaplan spokesperson Tammy Fang said.
Trachtenberg said the GW’s appearance on the list and the Princeton Review rankings are not consistent.
“I don’t think you get ‘hot’ if your current students aren’t happy . the single most consequential factor is that your students are happy,” he said.
Students said they are not surprised by the rankings.
“I was thinking that we are so politically active, it probably means that our students are more likely to want to change things,” sophomore Sarah Gibbon said. “Its not that we are unhappy, we’re just quick to criticize.”
Senior Ivy Huang said GW’s lack of a campus contributes to the “unhappiness factor.”
Senior Mike Pellegrino put a better spin on the results.
“GW has a lot of whiny students, but its still a great place to be,” he said.
The Princeton Review also called GW students “reformed slackers,” including a student submission that “this school is for everyone who could have been accepted to an Ivy League school and could have afforded it, but never applied themselves to that extent.”
It also said GW was a diverse, liberal school that lacked a traditional campus but noted that students gave high marks to the honors program and library. The full version of the results are available at www.review.com.
Olson said he encourages students to continue to give the Princeton Review input on their feelings by going the Web site and filling out a survey.
-L. Asher Corson contributed
to this report.