Posted: October 5, 2012 at 12:32 am

By: Kate Barr, Will O’Neill, Kaidy Murdock, Terry Fletcher

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— West Virginia University may have snagged Newsweek’s  number one party ranking this year not because it has such great parties but because of its unusually high rate of on-campus arrests and citations.

University and city officials say that the way bars are set up in Morgantown and the proximity of those bars to campus has a lot to do with the university’s ranking. For instance, late closing times and underage students in the city’s private clubs contributed to a staggering 2,361 alcohol and drug-related arrests and disciplinary actions on campus in 2010. And those are the statistics Newsweek based its 2012 rankings on.

“Essentially the city of Morgantown is the campus for West Virginia University,” Morgantown City Manager Terrence Moore says. “Therefore, we end up dealing with a lot of issues that may not be the case in university communities in which the campus is sectioned off in another part of town.”

Newsweek based its party school rankings on several factors. First, the magazine used the website Collegeview to narrow the pool of potential candidates based on Collegeview’s vague criteria of which universities were considered “best fit for students interested in attending a big-time party school.”

Drunk West Virginia University students vandalize a car on St.
Patrick’s day.

Newsweek also distributed surveys to 122,000 students at about 377 campuses asking them about their school experience. Bonus points were awarded to schools ranked on the Princeton Review’s “top party school” and “lots of beer” surveys. WVU ranked number six for parties and number eight for beer consumption.

Newsweek paired this information with the most recent drug and alcohol statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. The magazine considered on-campus arrests and disciplinary actions in correlation with the institution’s size. In 2010, WVU had 1,501 on-campus disciplinary actions for alcohol and 104 for drugs. They also recorded 551 alcohol-related arrests and 205 drug-related arrests on-campus.

University officials think WVU’s statistics may be unusually high in part because of the university’s broad definition of “disciplinary actions.” According to University Chief of Police Bob Roberts, a disciplinary action is any violation that happens “on campus,” which is any property owned by the school’s governor and board of trustees. This includes classroom buildings, student housing, university recreational areas and all except for two fraternities. Any roads and sidewalks that are adjacent to these buildings are also considered on-campus.

“Almost anywhere our students are we get notified when they get in trouble,” says Lidell Evans, the university’s Assistant Dean of Student Conduct who handles sanctions for students who are caught with drugs or alcohol.

Morgantown’s night life also sets WVU apart from many other university campuses, officials say. Morgantown allows anyone over the age of 18 into the city’s many private clubs.  These clubs have unusually late closing times of 3 and sometimes 3:30 a.m.  In recent weeks, a number of violent late-night assaults near the downtown bars have prompted several city counselors to propose earlier closing times.

West Virginia University students celebrate Move-In Day at a house party
on Grant Ave.

Roberts says that in the past the bars had earlier closing times and the university had lower crime statistics. In addition, he says, letting students under the age of 21 into bars makes many students believe heavy underage drinking is fine and encourages them to get fake IDs so they can be served alcohol.

Roberts notes that WVU’s crime statistics also include non-students. He said up to ten percent of the people included in the Department of Education statistics do not even attend the university.

“These surveys don’t benefit anyone,” Roberts says. “At the end of the day [Newsweek and Princeton Review] are money-making organizations;  their purpose is to sell magazines.”