The Arizona Desert Lamp

Every time you drink a beer, Wilbur Wildcat kills a kitten.

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 8 September 2009
The Dean of Students' office poses for a picture.

The Dean of Students' office poses for a picture.

Hide your women and children – the Visigoths ‘party school’ label is here! That, at least, the undercurrent of this Star Republic piece, which deems that the UA has descended into that bacchanalian circle of hell, replacing ASU as the biggest party school in the state. The evidence for this claim?

Playboy magazine’s May issue named UA No. 5 in its biennial party-school rankings. ASU, which once topped the list, trailed at No. 15.

Of course, as the piece points out, the Princeton ‘party school’ rating system held ASU at number 20, while the UA didn’t make the top 25 cut; and further, these rankings are “subjective and unscientific,” but they do provide really good bait for newspapers looking for something sensational with a touch of authority to merit reporting (in other words – kinda flossy, kinda bossy). Even accepting the Playboy survey at face value, it’s important to note its methodology. For one, a new addition to the criteria was a ‘brain’ factor – not exactly something to be ashamed of. ‘Brains’ accompany ‘Sports’ and ‘Bikini’ as factors. Further, the score that involves drinking – ‘Campus Life’ – involves the following factors:

A beer is only as good as the company you drink it with, so we used these formulas: 2 x (the number of bars + the number of liquor stores + the gallons of beer consumed in the state each year) = N. Enrollment / (the number of clubs + the number of Greek organizations) = Q. Each school’s Q was then subtracted from the highest Q in the set to get Z. 100 / N+100 / Z gave us our number.

Next time you go to a club recognition ceremony, be sure to thank your student government representative for helping to give us that boost in Playboy. The rest of the formulas are equally ludicrous – as is suggesting that this somehow means more than other faux-rankings.

But wait – there’s more!

The University of Arizona has seen an increase in alcohol violations on campus, with police reporting 484 violations in 2008, a 42 percent increase over 2007 and the most in at least five years. UA Police Commander Robert Sommerfeld attributed the rise to a combination of other violations, more officers and more people willing to file reports.

The piece had the audacity to entitle this section ‘Bad behavior surges’, ignoring entirely Commander Sommerfeld’s own admission that this uptick in stats is a reflection of a change in enforcement priorities, rather than any change in behavior among students. Such an uptick is disturbing not because more kids are drinking (they aren’t), but because officers that are supposedly involved in ‘community policing’ are instead moving towards policing strategies that depend on alienating almost the entire population over which they watch. Readers of this site already know that these sort of violations are more often than not petty slaps on the wrist with little relation to rambunctious behavior, but as an example let’s take a perfectly mundane example from earlier this year:

A UAPD officer stopped two men for doing skateboard tricks at Bear Down Gym on Aug. 31 at 11:40 p.m.

After talking with the men, the officer smelled intoxicants.

The officer asked one of the men, a UA student, if he had been drinking and the man replied that he hadn’t been.

However, when the officer was about to administer a preliminary breath test, the man admitted he had a little vodka earlier and the breath test confirmed he had been drinking.

The other man, a Pima Community College student, also said he had been drinking and a breath test confirmed this.

Both men were cited and released.

The UA student was referred to the Dean of Students Office on charges of a Code of Conduct violation.

Kids drinking before they skateboard – next thing you know, they’ll be listening to that rock and roll music. Or worse – they’ll join a fraternity! Luckily, at the rate Dean Thompson is exiling Greek houses, by 2015 there won’t be any houses left to tempt the kids into a life of debauchery:

Since fall 2008, UA has removed four fraternities for various infractions such as hazing and alcohol violations. Another fraternity had its charter pulled Aug. 27 by its national organization.

Again, rather than indicating any change in behavior, these removals indicate a change in enforcement strategy – although it would be interesting to hear that the past year’s Greek behavior has wildly deviated from its behavior since, say, 1925. Ironically enough, this crusade against partying in Greek life has resulted in the school being perceived as more party-prone, thanks to all of the media coverage.

Finally, the article touches on the problems with Zona Zoo:

As the Wildcats prepare to open their football season today, UA officials hope last year’s uproar over the Zona Zoo section won’t recur. The Zoo is billed as the largest student cheering section in the Pac-10 with a 10,000-seat block at football games and 2,290 coveted seats at basketball games.

During a basketball game against Stanford

in February 2008, Zona Zoo students began chanting at the referee using the F-word after a disputed call.

UA officials met with students and posted a YouTube video to remind them about proper decorum at games. In October, the Zoo found itself in hot water again when too many people tried to crowd into the stadium section at the homecoming game. Hundreds were turned away. One student began fighting with an officer, and police subdued him with a Taser.

Does this article mean to suggest that a different group of students, in equal numbers and under equally claustrophobic conditions, would have responded differently? That UA students somehow are more inclined to act irrationally in sardine-style crowding conditions than other schools? Not surprisingly the basketball games, although more popular, had no such mad rush because seats were reserved ahead of time. If such a system were implemented for football, fans would probably act as normal as any other student section; which is to say, slightly more rowdy than average.

Meanwhile, doesn’t the Stanford example miss the point? Swearing in sports is as old as sports itself -your author can attest to chanting ‘bullshit’ at referees since around the age of eight. The far more damning event was the water bottle thrown on the court during the USC basketball, which forced interim Coach Kevin O’Neill to take a microphone and pause the game to chastise the students.

As a solution, respected intellectual and public figure Ernest Calderon actually offered this as a solution:

Still, Ernest Calderón, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, said this week he still has concerns about the Zona Zoo, calling for the athletic department to get a better handle on “Animal House-like behavior.” He also suggested the group’s name be changed. “If we’re calling it the Zona Zoo, are we inviting rowdy behavior?” he said.

By this logic, contra Glenn Beck, President Obama must be attempting to impose some sort of revanchist White Russia, what with the proliferation of “czars” under his administration. Perhaps we could call this new section ‘The Arizona Completely-PC Social Justice League’. The Zona Lovers? Wilbur’s Wobblies?

So in the end, what is the point of this convoluted exercise?

Even so, the Playboy ranking and some incidents have put UA, often in the news for its scientific breakthroughs, in an unflattering light. A “party school” tag can hurt a university’s reputation among student prospects and parents.

To contrast, here is a list of some of the schools listed in the Playboy ranking (with ranking in parentheses):

  • University of Miami, FL (1)
  • University of Texas – Austin (2)
  • University of Florida (4)
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison (6)
  • University of Georgia (7)
  • University of Iowa (9)
  • Pennsylvania State (13)
  • Rollins College (17)
  • Ohio University (18)
  • Indiana University (24)

What do these schools have in common? They all excel at academics as well. Florida’s 94 percent retention rate has long been lusted after the UA. Texas, Wisconsin, and Indiana are routinely mentioned in the same breath as Berkeley, Michigan, and Virginia. The Miami Hurricane took exactly the right tack in showing their pride at their Playboy poll championship:

If you haven’t already heard, Playboy Magazine ranked the University of Miami the best party school in the country.Many would assume that our academic standards would shrivel under the pressure of living up to this reputation, but the opposite is true. Our national academic ranking has drastically improved over the past 10 years. The only thing left to complain about is football (and basketball, the economy, parking…).

With academics on the rise, recruits must meet certain requirements in order to play for our team. The frustration surrounding the football squad is sometimes blamed on, among other things, this higher standard. Maybe if we slacked off a little bit, we would win another national championship.

This idea is clearly a fallacy. Our party ranking has consistently gone up with our academics, according to Playboy, so why the hell would this affect our success on the field? If we can get boozed up six nights a week and pull off As, we should be able to win games and get As.

We’ve already shown that when it comes to law schools, there’s absolutely no correlation between partying and academic achievement. While an appropriate sample (i.e. complete top-bottom rankings) doesn’t exist for undergraduate education, there’s reason to believe that a similar non-correlation would hold.

The real story, then, is not that the Dean Thompson is playing Xerxes to UA’s Greek Life, but that admissions standards are stagnant. The bigger issue is not that kids are getting more drinking violations for UAPD, but that more violations are being given. While an indeterminate number of professors feel that they exist in a post-Insurrection sort of existence, the bigger issue for university administrators is the name of the student section. Sic vita academia.


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