Will Loy leans against the wood-paneled wall at Kilroy's bar in Bloomington, Ind., with a bottle of beer in hand and a devilish grin on his face. It's his 14th straight night of partying, and by 3 a.m. the Indiana University sophomore has plowed through four bars and 12 drinks. "I've got it down to a science," says Loy, a criminal-justice major with--surprise--a 3.4 GPA. "I schedule my classes late in the day, study every day around noon. Then I can party harder at night."
Each night thousands of students copy Loy's partying routine at the half a dozen bars that surround the campus of 38,000 students. "This is the best place to have a good time," says junior George Leach, a starter on the Hoosiers' basketball team. Editors at the Princeton Review apparently agreed. Last summer the college-guide publisher named Indiana the No. 1 party school in the nation.
No doubt a few besotted cheers rose from the frat houses. But the ranking dismayed Indiana's administrators. Officially, at least, drinking isn't even allowed on campus, except in a few residences for older students. And the school had been trying harder than ever to enforce the rules since the alcohol-related deaths of a sophomore in 1998 and a freshman three years later. Since January 2001, six fraternities have been thrown off campus for alcohol violations. The number of underage students busted for boozing has more than quadrupled since 1998. The school even launched a controversial policy in 1999 to notify parents when students are arrested or hospitalized as a result of drinking.
The party ranking meant that the administration's exertions were having little effect. In fact, a shocking 52% of students said in a survey last year that they are binge drinkers, meaning the men consume at least five drinks in a row and the women four.
Some in the university say the Princeton Review's designation will make things worse. Former Indiana president Miles Brand has sent a letter to hundreds of university presidents attacking the Review for "exploiting the university and its students." Replies the Review's editorial director, Robert Franek: "We are not perpetuating the problem of drinking on campus; we're merely reporting what the students tell us. Don't shoot the messenger."
Now administrators have to figure out not only how to combat alcohol abuse but also how to fix a growing p.r. problem. A couple of months after the ranking was announced, a porn company decided that Indiana's party atmosphere made it the perfect place to shoot Shane's World No. 32: Campus Invasion. (Students were filmed getting busy with porn stars in a dorm and frat house.) A month later, the Girls Gone Wild crew danced into town to shoot video of topless I.U. women. "It's a horrendous set of actions that all started with the Princeton Review," says Brand, now president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.