420 Magazine Background

UVM Is No. 3 In Marijuana Use

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
When various college rankings make their annual appearance in August, The Princeton Review's list of "party schools" often gets prominent news coverage.

"Party schools" are just one of many dimensions that The Princeton Review ranks, while others typically garner less public attention. How much attention they deserve is anyone's guess. No Vermont institutions were included in the most recent list of 20 "party schools" or in the lists for "lots of beer" or "lots of hard liquor" consumed on campus.

One of the other rankings is called "reefer madness," on the prevalence of marijuana smoking, and the University of Vermont is listed as No. 3 for that behind Warren Wilson College (Asheville, N.C.), and Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.)

These and other rankings constitute one part of The Princeton Review's annual book on "Best Colleges." Another, much more substantial part, displays profiles of all the colleges -- unranked, and in alphabetical order. The 2008 edition, "The Best 366 Colleges" (813 pages, $21.95 in paperback), published last month, includes five Vermont institutions: Bennington, Marlboro, Middlebury, St. Michael's and UVM.

The profiles speak for themselves, but what do the rankings mean, and what significance do they have?

The meaning depends partly on the methodology. These are not rankings formulated by anyone who has an overview of all the schools and who is in a position to compare one to another. Instead, each school is evaluated by its own students in an online survey; the results are tabulated and averaged for each school, and those results are compared. The schools with the 20 highest averages are then listed in the 1-20 "ranking" for that category.

The significance is in the eye of the beholder. Colleges are often selective about which of these "rankings" they mention on their Web sites. Marlboro College, for example, cites its high ranking for students' lack of interest in interscholastic and intramural sports, and its No. 13 in the category of "Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging, clove-smoking vegetarians," but does not mention its No. 17 position for "homogeneous student population."

Bennington College mentions its 2003 ranking in the "dorms like palaces" category, but not the low mark for the library. UVM cites its inclusion in "Colleges with a Conscience," a separate compilation by Princeton Review of colleges that promote civic engagement, but Friday had not updated its Web site to include references to The Princeton Review's 2008 edition.

"We don't believe a hierarchical ranking of the schools -- 1 to 366 -- is useful," said Robert Franek, lead author of "The Best 366 Colleges," in an interview. The alphabetical institutional profiles, which take up more than 700 pages in the book, draw from a variety of data.

The rankings, by contrast, apply to more than 60 narrow categories that have to do with collegiate life and are based entirely on a student survey. Students at each school are invited to complete an online, 80-question survey about their campus experiences. Last year, Franek said in an interview, there were 120,000 respondents, including 740 from UVM.

The anatomy of 'best'

The Princeton Review has no relation to Princeton University, although the company was founded by a Princeton graduate in 1981. Nor is The Princeton Review a magazine.

The Princeton Review's primary business, initially, was to help prepare students for the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Today, the company provides classroom and online classes, as well as tutoring for students taking an array of entrance exams; and publishes guides and reference books aimed at students and their parents. Among the best known is the annual edition of "Best Colleges."

As for the 62 rankings in the 2008 edition, several are termed "best," as in "best campus food" or "best classroom experience." The appraisals of each college are done solely by students in that college. So, when Virginia Tech is listed as No. 1 for campus food (the survey asked: "How do you rate campus food?"), that means simply that the Virginia Tech students who responded to the survey gave their campus food higher marks than students at Bowdoin College (No. 2) gave their campus food.

For marijuana, the survey question was: "How widely is marijuana used at your school?" UVM students who participated in the survey apparently saw marijuana as more widely used on their campus than most other colleges' respondents on their campuses. The ranking data include no comparative statistics on actual marijuana usage. UVM views

Six years of statistics compiled by the UVM police department show that "drug law violations" increased 21 percent, from 194 in Fiscal Year '02 to 235 in Fiscal Year '07. (The numbers were lower in '04 and '05.) That increase slightly outpaced UVM's enrollment, which rose about 18 percent over those years. The statistics do not differentiate drug types.

"We have always been very serious about enforcing drug laws on campus," UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis said. "Ultimately, it's about safety," he said, and averting the problems that come with addiction and dealing. Often, he said, the problems of drug or alcohol abuse come with the students who enter college, and don't begin there.

This fall, UVM added a police canine to the ranks. Dozer, an 8-month-old black Lab, is undergoing several months of training, and ultimately will be used in searches and in drug inquiries, Margolis said. He also sees the dog as a "great PR tool" for police on campus.

In addressing drug problems, Margolis said, UVM police can make arrests and send alleged violators into the regular court system; campus police can also refer cases to UVM's judicial system, which has its own procedures and sanctions. UVM's "Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities" declares that students are responsible "for the activities that occur in their residence hall rooms." UVM's "Student Alcohol and Drug Policy" bans possessing or using illegal substances.

When informed of the "reefer madness" ranking, 10 UVM students on Friday offered an array of opinions about the extent of marijuana use on campus. Doug Shaw, Steve Connor and Nick Ihley -- all sophomores and all Vermonters -- agreed use was widespread but attributed that to the prevailing culture of Vermont and Burlington, with its "five head shops."

Others took issue with the ranking, calling it overblown and doubting that online-survey participants fairly represented the student body.

Only one could offer a cross-campus comparison. Mark Mahnensmith, a post-baccalaureate student, said he had spent time at two other colleges.

"I don't notice any difference from any other schools," he said.

News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: Burlingtonfreepress.com
Author: Tim Johnson
Contact: tjohnson@bfp.burlingtonfreepress.com
Copyright: 2007 Burlingtonfreepress.com
Website: Burlington Free Press.com | Top Stories
Top Bottom