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Sunday, May 19, 2024
Students and admissions officials deal with consequences of UW-Madison's prevalent party culture.

Students and admissions officials deal with consequences of UW-Madison's prevalent party culture.

While students excite over ‘party school’ rankings, university works to turn the tide

For Sunny Singh, a senior at UW-Madison, the school’s party culture is hard to avoid. The social life on UW-Madison’s campus is synonymous with drug and alcohol use, to Singh.

“The other day I was at a mixer for another org on campus, and … there was beer there and someone … just handed me a can, obviously out of courtesy, and they didn’t even ask me if I wanted it, or if i was okay with it,” Singh said.

The Princeton Review ranked UW-Madison the nation’s top party school for 2017, a fact many students take pride in. Administration officials, however, proactively work to combat this characterization.

University programs such as AlcoholEdu help downplay the perception of UW-Madison as a party school. AlcoholEdu, an educational module students must complete before beginning their freshman year—helps the university track data on student drinking patterns and the general culture of the school in regards to consumption.

“At the end of AlcoholEdu part one there’s a survey, so we’re able to collect data on our incoming students and then since it’s such a widely used product we’re able to compare ourselves to [other schools in] the Big Ten” Jenny Rabas, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Prevention coordinator for University Health Services, explained .

Six weeks after finishing part one of AlcoholEdu, students receive another survey asking about their drinking patterns. This survey, which is administered about 45 days into the start of students’ first year on campus, allows the university to gather data on how the UW-Madison culture affects students drinking patterns.

The data gathered from the AlcoholEdu surveys helped the university develop the First 45 Days Initiative, which aims to help students form healthy behaviors concerning alcohol.

“They really want students early on to know that these are not the norms for this environment, no matter what you’ve heard, from any party school ranking, or whatever, that might be the perception but that is not the reality” Rabas said.

The university’s first line of defense to offset the “party school” image is the residence halls. According to Rabas, UW-Madison police are sent on dorm walk-throughs, with as many as six officers at a time, searching for any behavior contrary to campus housing policy.

“I think it’s very dependent on where you live freshman year and who’s your floor or what the general vibe is,” Ben Sprengeler, a campus tour guide, said.

Sprengeler, who lived in Sellery Hall his freshman year, believes the party scene is not hard to avoid.

“Yes there is a party culture at Madison, but the party culture isn’t just a Madison thing, it’s a college-wide thing. You can choose to partake in those activities if you want to—because they do exist—but I personally have never felt pressured to do anything I don’t want to do,” Sprengeler said.

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Ellie Hutchison, a senior at Mount Horeb High-School and future UW-Madison student, echoed his sentiment.

“Just from what I’ve heard from the people I know who go to Madison I’m kind of confused as to how it was ranked the number one party school,” Hutchison said.

The Princeton Review ranking, which is developed through a survey sent to students, affects UW-Madison’s reputation nationwide.

“When individuals have guests, a lot of the time they think ‘oh now I’ve got to come to Wisconsin and party,’” Rabas said Visitors can create a ruckus, Rabas explained, and ‘that’s not what our students do; it’s just that this perception can hurt us.”

According to Rabas, weekday drinking at UW-Madison is below the national average, and overall numbers for alcohol use on campus have gone down in the past year.

“If someone surveyed you and asked, ‘do you go to a party school?’… there’s a good chance people would say yes, no matter what school they’re going to… We have no data to say that we’re actually doing any worse. We actually are showing numbers getting better,” Rabas said.

While UW-Madison may be ranked highly for its parties, not all UW-Madison students choose to partake in the campus culture. Singh, now a senior, works to support the campus community in combatting alcohol and drug abuse.

As the outreach director for Live-Free, a UW-Madison student group helping students maintain a sober lifestyle, Singh said the party scene at UW-Madison is not problem across all college campuses, not just UW-Madison.

UW-Madison faculty, staff and administration do what they can to fight the party school perception and provide alternatives to participating in the drinking culture. Hutchison cites these alternatives as a motive for enrolling in UW-Madison.

Regardless of leisure activities and rankings, many students such as Hutchison choose UW-Madison because “it’s a really good atmosphere, with it being such a big school I know that there are a lot of great opportunities and a vast amount of things to explore and go into.”

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