CHAMPAIGN — The University of Illinois stakes claim to 23 Nobel Prize winners and tech prowess that contributed to the creation of YouTube, Netscape, Java and Yelp.
But students at the central Illinois campus don’t just bury their heads in books, they also party — so much so that they’ve earned the top spot on The Princeton Review’s annual list of top party schools in the U.S., the college guide said Monday.
“Drinking culture is huge here,” according to an unnamed student in the Princeton Review’s 2016 edition of the “The Best 380 Colleges.” The university has about 31,000 undergraduate students.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler was bothered by the No. 1 ranking — a first for the campus, which has been among the list’s top five for years — and said it painted students in a false light.
“They are serious, they are hard-working, and to try to present them as being somehow irresponsible is insulting,” she said Monday.
The largest of the parties is an annual day of drinking called Unofficial, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration that was started by a local bar. The event included fatal accidents in 2001 and 2006. The university tries every year to keep the event under control, often beefing up police presence and, two years ago, even asking parents to help them tone down the partying.
The Princeton Review’s publisher says the collection of lists is meant to paint a picture of life on campus at the schools it reviews, using students’ answers to a long series of questions about student life to create profiles, as well as lists for things such as partying, dorm life, sports, political persuasions and more.
“We have such a high regard for each of the 380 schools,” said publisher Robert Franek, whose review is not affiliated with Princeton University. “The University of Illinois, it is an exceptional school.”
For those who don’t imbibe, the top stone-cold sober school is Brigham Young University, the private Utah school affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tops for most religious students? That’s BYU, too.
Looking for the best campus food? Try the small, exclusive Bowdoin College in Maine.
Most satisfied students? Claremont McKenna University, under what one student told the review was “the constantly beaming California sun.”
Want a job? Go to Clemson University in South Carolina, where students say they’re instantly part of a worldwide network.
The party rankings, like most parties themselves, change over time. The University of Iowa is a former No. 1, but came in at No. 2 this year.
Freshmen due in Iowa City this month will find dozens of bars downtown and many house parties awaiting them. But the city has also made it harder for those under 21 to get into bars, and police officers will be patrolling neighborhoods to break up rowdy parties.
Rounding out the top five party schools are, in order: The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and last year’s No. 1, Syracuse University in New York.
DAVID MERCER, Associated Press
Associated Press writer Ryan Foley in Iowa City, Iowa, contributed to this report.