By Associated Press - Monday, August 2, 2010

ATLANTA | The University of Georgia won a national title this year — top party school.

The Princeton Review announced Monday that Georgia is the No. 1 party school on its now infamous annual ranking. The school of about 30,000 students has been on the list 10 times since the ranking was created in 1992, but this is the first time the university has taken the top spot.

For the campus — surrounded by nearly 100 bars in tiny downtown Athens — parties are just part of life from August to May each year. Many students gear up for the weekend on Thursdays and sometimes don’t rest until Monday morning.

“That’s what people look forward to starting Thursday — Thursday night is the new Friday night,” said junior Andrew Chappell, 20. “The party atmosphere is such a big part of Georgia.”

University of Georgia spokesman Tom Jackson said the list is not one the school wants to lead.

“We’d rather focus on the Green Honor Roll listing as a top environmentally conscious campus, or the top 50 ‘Best Values’ listing,” he said in a press release.

Mr. Jackson declined to comment on whether the ranking attracts students to the school.

“It has no effect on who is accepted or who enrolls,” he told The Washington Times, adding that surveys show students make academics their top priority when selecting a school.

Georgia beat out Pennsylvania State University, West Virginia University and University of Florida — which were the top party schools over the last three years. Those three made the top 10 this year, while Ohio University ranked second.

“While we are disappointed in the ranking, we do not put a lot of credence in it,” Kent J. Smith Jr., vice president for student affairs at Ohio University, told The Times. “It does not represent the holistic experience of Ohio students. Ohio University is routinely ranked as one of the best universities in America based on the quality of our academics and the breadth of our student experience.”

The ranking comes after several years of work by University of Georgia administrators to curb drinking on campus and tone down the party atmosphere.

Since 2006 — when a student died of an overdose of alcohol, cocaine and heroin in his dorm room — university police have been hauling underage drinkers to jail rather than simply giving them a ticket. School administrators call parents on the first offense and suspend a student for two semesters after the second alcohol violation.

“The University of Georgia takes student alcohol education programs very seriously and will continue to do so,” Mr. Jackson said.

Those efforts weren’t helped when athletic director Damon Evans stepped down last month after being charged with drunken driving. Mr. Evans had appeared in a video message played before home football games urging Georgia fans not to drink and drive.

In another survey, Brigham Young University, a private Mormon college, took the No. 1 spot in Princeton’s “Stone-Cold Sober Schools” list for the 13th year in a row.

Joe Hadfield, BYU’s spokesman, told The Times the ranking is a source of amusement for BYU students, but there is something to BYU’s party-free reputation.

“It’s definitely the students that come here,” he said, explaining that the school attracts those who are religious and serious about academics. “They’re looking for a unique experience.”

The ranking is based on e-mail surveys of 122,000 students at more than 370 colleges across the country. It combines responses on alcohol and drug use on campus, hours spent studying outside class and the popularity of fraternities and sororities.

The surveys are filled out voluntarily by students, and on average about 325 students from each campus respond, said Rob Franek, author of the 800-page book put out by Princeton Review each year with nearly 60 categories of rankings.

Washington Times writer Michal Elseth contributed to this report.

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