UCSB’s dual reputation as a strong academic institution and a party school endures, according to several recent rankings.

A recent compilation from High Times magazine lists UCSB – for the first time ever – as number two on its top 10 list of marijuana friendly campuses, due to strong activism by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) on-campus chapter. And the Princeton Review’s 2007 The Best 361 Colleges ranks UCSB 10th on a list of the nation’s top party schools.

However, U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges 2007” issue ranks UCSB as the 47th national university out of 248 in terms of academic quality, and 12th among the 162 public universities from that group.

UCSB NORML founder and graduate Lauren Vazquez said she believes UCSB’s number-two ranking in the High Times’ list is well deserved, even though the campus chapter of NORML was started just two years ago.

“UCSB went from never placing to earning the second spot on High Times’ Top 10 Counterculture College ranking,” she said. “These rankings were based on campus activism on the issue of marijuana law reform, not how many stoners are on campus. For a club that has been active for only two years, this is quite an accomplishment.”

As for the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Betty Huff, the assistant vice chancellor for enrollment services and management, said UCSB is aware of the U.S. News ranking, but does not regard it as a perfect measure of a school’s quality.

“We’re happy to be in the top 50, certainly,” Huff said of the academic rankings. “We think that all rankings are somewhat flawed because they tend to look at factors in different ways, but because they are public rankings, we certainly pay attention to them. We do work with U.S. News to provide them with information, but at the same time we sometimes disagree with them.”

U.S. News & World Report uses the opinions of university academics and administrators with enough knowledge of a given school to judge its overall undergraduate quality to create the rankings. It also uses data provided by schools about characteristics such as student retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity and alumni donations.

Schools defined as national universities “offer a full range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees, often placing strong emphasis on research and receiving federal money to support the research,” according to the U.S. News website.

Huff said the Princeton Review findings are questionable, as the number of students from UCSB who were surveyed is unavailable.

“We’re much more interested in the rankings by the professional journals, as well as the awards received by the faculty and the quality of the faculty,” Huff said. “I’m not sure these are things you can ‘rank,’ and I certainly don’t think stereotyping us as a party school is either appropriate or factual.”

Dean of Students Yonie Harris said she is also not confident in the accuracy of the Princeton Review’s results. She said the surveys are not conducted in a scientific manner and do not have any validity.

“My view is, the Princeton Review uses the rankings to sell magazines,” Harris said. “They have a short list of schools they shuffle around for that. I don’t put any credence in it.”

Harris said the scientific survey work done at UCSB looking at alcohol and use of other drugs indicates a trend away from hard partying. Harris also said data shows that binge drinking, a key problem, is down among students.

“[Princeton Review doesn’t] have any way of knowing what our campus is about,” Harris said. “The [Isla Vista] Foot Patrol is reporting many fewer large parties in Isla Vista. What we’re seeing is a much larger change in our culture here than ’10th best party school’ would indicate.”

The Princeton Review rankings are based on surveys given to college students asking them about “themselves, the school’s academics and administration, campus life and peer attitudes.” The number of students surveyed was not disclosed.

Last year, U.S. News & World Report ranked UCSB 45th out of national universities and 10th out of the public universities in that category. Princeton Review ranked UCSB as the fourth biggest party school last year, but only 22nd in 2004. High Times did not include UCSB in its list last year.

Fourth-year cultural anthropology major Crystal Buckley said she agrees with the rankings and thinks UCSB’s two reputations actually attract students.

“I think the institutional learning attracts people as well as the nightlife,” she said.

Mechanical engineering graduate student Gunjan Thakur said he is not sure what he thinks of the rankings, though he said undergraduates definitely party a lot.

“We need a balance,” he said. “Partying is not bad; we should enjoy ourselves, but balance and do what you’re here for, which is studying.”