Drinking has been associated with college students since before the time the release of “Animal House,” and schools are now being urged to take responsibility for it.
A recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner argues that private college rankings, such as the U.S. News and World Report, should include alcohol abuse and any effort the college takes to fight its occurrence as a way to hold schools accountable for binge drinking that happens on their campuses.
As the op-ed noted, drinking among college students can lead to alcohol-related harm and is often associated with sexual assault. Yet, while singling out the problem of binge drinking with college rankings could be effective in an ideal world, schools still have to grapple with ways to get students to care.
The idea is that the threat of not reaching the top of the rank- ings because of a campus binge- drinking problem would motivate schools to try harder to control students’ drinking. As mentioned in the op-ed, last September a Boston Magazine article found that schools are pushed to move their ranking up after seeing that higher-ranked schools have “increased visibility and prestige” and “greater revenue potential.”
Yes, dangling money over schools could encourage them to work out their binge-drinking issues on campus, however, the op-ed addressed the fact that Princeton, the top-ranked college on U.S. News, found that binge drinking actually increased on its campus despite implementing drinking restrictions.
That just goes to show that students are not guaranteed to follow whatever discouragement against binge drinking a university puts in place. Even more problematic, many students are selective with what they want to base their college decisions on.
For instance, though a report from the American Education Research Association found that rankings such as U.S. News and the Princeton Review do affect students’ college choices, according to the Atlantic, it depends on the metric. While “quality of life” and academic rankings from the Princeton Review affect the applications process, the ranking’s “Party Schools” and “Stone- Cold Sober Schools” lists didn’t statistically impact the number of applicants.
Schools have already made efforts on their own to deal with binge drinking, yet it becomes an issue of effectiveness when many students are of legal drinking age.
Brown University, as the op-ed noted, recently implemented a ban on alcohol in residential events, and Dartmouth College banned liquor that is over 15 percent alcohol from campus. However, if the ranking system needs to become part of the picture, it would be more effective to address problems such as sexual assault as individual problems. Last year, for instance, the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet pushed for the Princeton Review to include how schools handle sexual assault on its rankings.
All in all, addressing the drinking problem on campuses with rankings is a roundabout, half-baked way to deal with it. Rather, colleges strictly enforcing bans or restrictions could have an even bigger punch than rankings could.
Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.