The results are in, and Skidmore College has replaced the University of Colorado, Boulder as No. 1 on the annual Princeton Review “Reefer Madness” school ranking list.
Every year, the Princeton Review compiles data from thousands of college students across the country. It uses the data to formulate college ranking lists on topics that include everything from “Least Happy Students” to “Best College Dorms.”
While Skidmore has made the “Reefer Madness” list before, this is the first time it has been the top-ranked school in the marijuana category.
“My first thought when hearing Skidmore is now ranked No. 1 on the ‘Reefer Madness’ list was to laugh,” said Scott Nichols, a 2010 Skidmore graduate. “I remember my freshman roommate transferring to University of Colorado, Boulder halfway through the year after telling me he was inspired by the song ‘Rocky Mountain High,’ so I guess the joke’s on him now.”
The Colorado college, known as CU-Boulder for short, was ranked first on the list last year, while Skidmore was ranked fourth.
Nichols said he was surprised to see Skidmore ranked No. 1, “mostly because I don’t remember there being a huge marijuana culture,” he said. “Sure, there were people who smoked pot, some more than others, but it never felt like a pervasive force on campus.”
Andrew Shi, a junior at Skidmore, also questioned the ranking.
“Yes, weed is pervasive at Skidmore,” he said. “Possibly more so than your average Northeastern liberal arts college, but definitely not to the extent that it ranks us No. 1.”
Shi, who serves as editor-in-chief of the Skidmore student newspaper, the Skidmore News, said he feels that the ranking is somewhat of an unfair label.
“Weed usage can be expected at Skidmore,” he said. “But to call it part of the culture as if it’s some defining, binding trait is mistaken.”
Students aren’t the only ones not buying into the ranking. Saratoga Springs Police Lt. John Catone isn’t, either.
There have not been any marijuana issues on the campus for quite some time, he said.
“No issues on 4/20 for the last two years at Skidmore,” he said. “I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to these review things.”
CU-Boulder shut down its campus this year on April 20, a day celebrated as a holiday among marijuana users, which usually draws more than 12,000 to the campus for the celebration. According to the official CU-Boulder website, the shutdown cost the university more than $100,000 — and possibly the No. 1 spot on the Princeton Review list, too.
“Alcohol and drug use is a serious problem on most of the nation’s campuses, and the picture at Skidmore is no different,” said Andrea Wise, spokeswoman for the college. “It’s unfortunate that the Princeton Review approaches it in such a lighthearted way with its so-called ‘Reefer Madness’ ranking. It sends the message that this isn’t a serious issue.”
Recently, Skidmore joined a group of 500 colleges comprising the Alcohol Prevention Coalition, which provides institutionwide solutions to key challenges threatening the effectiveness of campus alcohol and other drug prevention efforts.
And there are consequences for students who violate the marijuana policy at Skidmore. In addition to penalties imposed through the student judicial system, Skidmore requires violators to take an individualized six-lesson, three-hour online course that specifically addresses marijuana use. The class includes a 30-day follow-up that enables staff to measure changes in the students’ attitudes and behavior.
“There’s nothing scientific about the way the Princeton Review conducts the surveys on which its rankings are based,” Wise said. “We have more confidence in the surveys that we do ourselves through our Office of Health Promotion.”
Nichols said he hopes this ranking does not deter students from attending Skidmore — or have the opposite effect.
“Prospective students who avoid Skidmore because of the reputation are only depriving themselves of a top-notch education,” he said. “And people who go because of the reputation will most likely be disappointed and transfer elsewhere, like my freshman roommate.”
Skidmore was also ranked this year by the Princeton Review as No. 19 for “Best College Theater,” No. 5 for “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians,” No. 18 for “Best College Dorms,” No. 7 for the “Least Religious Schools,” No. 10 for “Most Liberal Students” and No. 16 for “Easiest Campus to Get Around.” Skidmore is also named a Best Northeastern College by The Princeton Review.
“People don’t really try very hard to hide it if they do smoke pot, which is probably the biggest difference between Skidmore and other schools,” Nichols said. “But I have a very hard time believing that Skidmore actually has a higher rate of pot usage than other colleges.”