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BYU owns this label: still stone-cold sober

Guide says it's No. 1 for 10th straight year

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 21 2007 12:14 a.m. MDT

PROVO — Hey, everybody at Brigham Young University, it's time to party like it's 1998.
BYU style, that is — no beer, no liquor, no marijuana.
Sprite and study hall, anyone?
For the 10th straight year, BYU is the nation's No. 1 stone-cold sober school, according to the Princeton Review's annual college guide "The Best 366 Colleges," released today.
Don't expect any campus parties to celebrate a solid decade of super-hyped sobriety. First, there are no fraternities or sororities at BYU. And second, the students are gone, replaced this week by their parents, alumni and other post-collegiate members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more than 20,000 of them, who have invaded the campus for the annual Education Week.
BYU has dominated the stone-cold category since 1998, when Bill Clinton was president, BYU-Idaho was still known as Ricks and Harry Potter was just 12 years old and in his second year at Hogwarts.
How does the Princeton Review come to this conclusion, a source of pride for alumni and students, about BYU?
The rankings come from BYU students themselves, said Robert Franek, editorial director of "The Best 366 Colleges." The Princeton Review surveys students at each school every three years. It last approached BYU students in 2005, Franek said, though students can go to www.princetonreview.com anytime and fill out a survey online. Over the past three years, the Princeton folks surveyed 120,000 college and university students.
"This is a testament to students telling us what their experiences are both inside and outside the classroom," Franek said. "This isn't the opinion of the Princeton Review."
The stone-cold sober ranking is based on five questions in the survey. Students rank their own schools on a scale of 1 to 5 for four of the questions:
How widely is beer used at your school?
How widely is hard liquor used at your school?
How widely is marijuana used at your school?
How popular are fraternities/sororities at your school?
The survey says ... "Students are very religious," there is "very little hard liquor" used, "(almost) no one smokes" and there is "very little drug use," according to the two-page section on BYU in "The Best 366 Colleges."
BYU was ranked No. 1 in lowest use of beer and liquor, and second in lowest reported use of marijuana, with the Air Force Academy ranked No. 1.
The findings are no surprise, of course. Each BYU student agrees when he or she applies to the school to abide by its Honor Code, which proscribes the use of alcohol or drugs.
"BYU has been unapologetic that those options don't exist at their campus," Franek said.
The fifth question that factors into the stone-cold sober ranking — How many out-of-class hours do you spend studying each day? — asks students to choose a number between one hour or less of studying per day to five hours or more.
The same five questions also determine which school is ranked the nation's No. 1 party school. This year, it's West Virginia, which oddly enough was last No. 1 in 1998.
In between, though, the top party school ranking has skipped around. Franek said the reason is that the negative publicity that comes with the ranking leads many schools to take action.
"The schools on our party-school list, whether they agree with us or not, recognize that alcohol and drug use is an educational issue," he said. "The University of Colorado, which topped our list a few years ago, very aggressively reached out to students."
In contrast, the last time BYU wasn't atop the stone-cold sober list was 1997, when it somehow was left off the list altogether and the headline in the Deseret Morning News was, "What an affront! BYU left off the stone-cold sober list." The year before, BYU had been No. 2.
BYU also has the nation's most religious students, according to the survey, based a ratings response from 1 to 5 to a single question, "How religious are students at your school?"
The university turns into a series of church buildings each Sunday, with students streaming onto campus to use classrooms for worship services.
BYU also finished No. 1 in the category "Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution," another ranking compiled with the results of a series of questions — political persuasion, marijuana use among students, how religious students are, the popularity of the student government and the level of acceptance of the gay community on campus.
The university's library continued to get high marks from students, ranking third in the country. Students also reported they lean to the right politically (fourth), that town-gown relations are great (12th), they are happy (14th), everyone plays intramural sports (17th), they have a high quality of life (19th), and the administration runs the school like butter (20th).
The University of Utah and Westminster College again were profiled in the book. The U. made three lists — professors are inaccessible (11th), most religious students (11th) and low acceptance of the gay community (16th).
The two-page profiles include demographics about the student body, academics, admissions and financial aid for all 366 schools. The schools are not ranked academically.
"In our opinion, each school in this book is a 'best' when it comes to academics," Franek said. "But as anyone visiting colleges can attest, their campus cultures and offerings differ greatly. We compile rankings in multiple categories to give college applicants and their parents — particularly those who can't visit these schools — a wide range of information to decide which of these academically outstanding colleges will be best for them. It's all about the fit."


E-mail: twalch@desnews.com

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