Students at Union College say they have to work hard, so it’s only natural that they party hard.
And that’s a view affirmed by the Princeton Review, which ranked the college as New York’s top party school of 2009. Overall, Union was ranked 13th among the 371 colleges reviewed in the annual guidebook, which was released Monday.
Princeton Review also listed Union as college with the most to do on campus and second in having the most dysfunctional “town-gown” relations. The college was also cited for having a very prevalent Greek life, beer-loving student body and an overall lack of integration among campus cliques.
“There’s no disagreement over the city of Schenectady; everyone agrees it is less than ideal, and worse, there is ‘nothing to do,’ ” the review states “General consensus is that fun means ‘staying on campus and drinking’ or ‘maybe an excursion to Albany’ for a concert.”
Princeton Review interviewed roughly 122,000 students via a 62-question online survey. Union was ranked between the University of Iowa and Indiana University; Penn State University in Pennsylvania was the top-ranked party school and the only other college in the Northeast to crack the top 20.
Union officials dismissed the ranking as arbitrary. Spokesman Phil Wadja said the ranking is far from scientific and doesn’t address the reality of campus life at the school.
“No one should take these rankings seriously,” he said. “The relatively small percentage of students who respond to these surveys don’t speak to the reality of the scene on campus.”
Wajda also pointed to a number of recent campus initiatives aimed at reducing drinking among students, including a mandatory alcohol education program for new students and a strengthened discipline policy. He said the college also hired a health educator and a director of fraternity and sorority affairs, both of whom work to reduce problem behaviors among the student body.
“These are all steps we’ve taken in the last few years that we hope will let our students make better decisions for themselves,” he said.
Hardly any students were on the campus this week, as the college’s summer break continues. Most of the fraternity and sorority houses — the groups known for hosting the college’s popular on-campus parties — were dormant Monday.
Other area colleges made Princeton Review’s rankings. The University at Albany was ranked second among the schools with the ugliest campuses and third for having students who study the least; Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs was ranked second among schools with the most marijuana users.
The few students lingering at Union were initially surprised by the ranking.
Upon further reflection, however, they seemed to agree with Princeton Review’s assessment and its ranking Union among the nation’s top party schools.
Some downplayed the notion of binge drinking among their peers and rebutted the notion that the college is a non-stop party school.
But they agreed that most students like to unwind at campus keggers after a long week of studying.
“It’s kind of like a reward,” said Anna Mueller, a junior at the college and member of a sorority.
Her sister Paula, a sophomore, agreed.
Whether it’s a weekend barbecue or a campus-wide ‘around the world’ party, she said there always seems to be something to do once the work week is over.
“It’s whatever you’re in the mood for,” she said.
Elite Williams, an incoming freshman from Schenectady, was pleased to hear about the ranking even though she doubted its validity.
She said the nearby University at Albany —a college ranked the top party school in both 1998 and 2004 —seemed to have a much more active nightlife.
Still, Williams said her observations during an incoming freshman orientation seemed to suggest a hearty party scene at Union. She liked the fact that the students seem both diligent about their work and social lives.
“Who doesn’t want a balance?” she asked.
Jeanette Sargent, a classics professor at Union, had a different take on the ranking.
She theorized that a number of Union students colluded to fill out the surveys in a way that would characterize the college as a major party school.
“They get together and fill them out so that it looks like everyone is aware of this,” she said.