San Diego State University has, in an official capacity at least, strained mightily to relieve itself of its party-school image.
Those efforts kicked into overdrive last year, after a high-profile sting by federal agents and local authorities resulted in the arrests of dozens of students on drug charges. But, really, the damage control has been ongoing since at least 2006, when Playboy ranked the school No. 5 on its semi-annual list of the top 10 U.S. party schools.
So what do the image police have to show for all their labor? Playboy's just-released 2009 list of Top 10 Party Schools ranks SDSU at No. 3. After banning drinking in resident halls, raising the penalties for raucous off-campus parties, expelling two bacchanalian frat houses and providing clean-and-sober alternative events for students, the university moved two steps up the party-school list. Only at the University of Miami (No. 1) and the University of Texas, Austin (No. 2), is a student more likely to wake up in a bathtub with shaved eyebrows and an STD. Asked about the new ranking, SDSU spokesperson Gina Jacobs says that while officials have worked hard to address some students' reckless behavior, they couldn't change the reckless behavior of Playboy magazine.
“We think these types of rankings are irresponsible when equating alcohol and unsafe behavior as being a major part of the university experience, when, in reality, it's not,” Jacobs says. “It sends the wrong message about what it's really like here. The overall majority of our students are hard-working—they work hard to accomplish their academic goals.”
Moreover, she says, being a top-10 party school is just one of the university's many accomplishments.
“We're also ranked nationally for our research and our study abroad programs, and, for more than a couple dozen of our programs, we're ranked among the nation's best,” she says. “I think it's important to include that information.”
Ashley Dutcher, a 20-year-old junior majoring in public relations, agrees. But she also feels the Animal House image is a self-inflicted wound.
“The public-relations program here is ranked sixth in the nation and is the best on the West Coast,” she says. “But from what I've seen, yeah, the party-school image is definitely deserved.”
But Faryar Borhani, president of the Sigma Nu fraternity chapter at the university, sees the school's No. 3 ranking less as a badge of dishonor than as another example of the mighty Aztecs' “can-do” spirit. “I think it's great, and I'm really excited about it,” the 21-year-old journalism major says.
“Playboy's a big magazine that a lot of people look at, and to be No. 3 in the top 10 is, I think, a great accolade to have. The school has made huge progress academically—it's getting hard to get in here with a 3.8 GPA. This ranking shows that we party a lot and get things done, too.”