August 5, 2014
Dear Orange Friends:
Yesterday, The Princeton Review, a for-profit corporation with no connection to Princeton University, designated Syracuse University as the top “party school” in the nation for 2014, replacing the University of Iowa, which was selected last year. The methodology for earning this year’s label is unclear, but based in large part on a survey of a small sample of our students in 2012.
It is not a good thing for a school to be labeled as number one in partying. I’ve heard about this ranking in the last two days from all sorts of folks around the world. To put it bluntly, the hundreds of thousands of alumni, students, faculty, and staff who have poured their lives into building Syracuse University did not do so primarily to create a party. Sure, they are social people. They are not pompous. They enjoy a good time. So do I. But more than anything else, we work hard to promote a University, which is to say a place that educates and empowers people and pursues truth. So many of you have worked hard to do that and have been successful at it.
So let’s take the “party school” label as a wake-up call at Syracuse—a call that we have two things to work on. One is to make people around the world even more aware of the educational excellence here and our commitment to enhancing it and integrating it into every aspect of student life, including what happens on evenings and weekends. Two, we have to pay even more attention than our peers to the aspects of student life—and parties—that get in the way of students succeeding. High-risk use of alcohol and other drugs (not unrelated to a party culture) ranks number one on that list.
We must move fast in effecting this change. One thrust of the University’s strategic planning process will be to examine the overall Syracuse undergraduate experience and identify how we will work together to ensure that academic, residential, and co-curricular experiences reinforce each other. We must focus our efforts to ensure that learning and education are at the forefront of all that we do and every student ultimately benefits fully from their time at Syracuse.
We face a balancing act in the year ahead. Like most of our alumni and students, I found that my time as a university student was importantly and positively defined by the friendships and experiences I had in social activities with my friends. The last thing I needed or wanted was some university official to program every step of social development. Yet at times I did need boundaries, and I also needed a sense that the community cared about those boundaries and was there to care about, and at times guide and help me and my friends. My belief, which I hope some of you share, is that to be labeled the number one party school is to be told those boundaries need more attention. With your help, they will get it this year.
Chancellor Kent Syverud