For the past four years, disclosing my academic institution to others has often resulted in the same judgmental reaction: “UCSB is a party school, isn’t it?”
“Well, sure, but every university is a party school if you want it to be,” I typically quip back, annoyed. Without exception, any time I’ve journeyed away from our beloved Isla Vista, I’ve been met with giggles and condescension about our school’s party reputation. Old teachers seem surprised I’m still alive. High school friends attempt to live vicariously through my supposedly sinful exploits. My younger sister’s club soccer parents love regurgitating the most recent US News College Rankings to my parents, who in turn repeat them to me every time I go home.
Where do these mythological assumptions stem from? Maybe it comes from the pure concentration of students in Isla Vista. Could it only SEEM as if there’s more partying because it’s all in one place? Or maybe because during the Vietnam War we not only burned down the Bank of America, but also had Gov. Ronald Reagan impose a student curfew, enforced by the National Guard, during the 1971-72 school year ? Or maybe it’s because thousands of outsiders flood I.V. during Halloween and make a mess of a place we actually care about? Maybe we’re partially responsible for that last one, but we UCSB students don’t shit where we eat.
Or maybe, like the soccer cult parents of my hometown, people believe those bullshit “reputation surveys” printed by The Princeton Review and US News. Both sources have a very iffy, less-than-viable ranking system, causing many universities to distance themselves from the survey results. The Princeton Review ranks UCSB in four categories, only one of which relates to academics. Hey kids, apparently we’re ranked 15th in the rarity of class discussions, among some 300-odd U.S. schools. We’re 11th among schools in the “Lots of Hard Liquor” category, 17th in “Reefer Madness” and 10th in line for the “Party Schools” crown.
Next time someone pulls out one of those brilliantly ridiculous statistics at your expense, throw out one of our impressive accomplishments. We attend one of the few institutions with its own beach. UCSB is home to five Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physics and economics. It’s the only campus in California to offer a B.S. in pharmacology. Maybe that’s too much to memorize, so you lazier types should memorize the list of notable alumni, which includes Michael Douglas, Jack Johnson, Gwyneth Paltrow, retired L.A. Lakers guard Brian Shaw, House Representative Lois Capps and Robert Ballard, the oceanographer who discovered the Titanic wreckage.
Need more ammo? In 2007, the reputable Shanghai University Survey ranked UCSB as the 35th best university in the WORLD and 27th best in the U.S. – above UC Davis and UC Irvine. Of course, UCSB is ranked below the schools you’d expect – those pesky, pretentious Ivy Leagues – but who cares? If Andy from “The Office,” a Cornell grad obsessed with his school’s prestige, is any indication of the Ivy League personality, I’ll gladly stick to my public school.
So sure, we party hard – maybe even a little harder than some schools – but there is no graduate more prepared and aware of his/her limits than a party-weathered UCSB grad. By the time 21 comes around, most of us are long over the theme parties, the Wednesday night bouts of drinking, the short skirts and heels, the kegs of Keystone Light and the belief in beer quantity over quality. When we graduate, most of us will have learned how to prioritize and how to responsibly include – rather than exclude completely – having fun into the dull world of work and school. We will have fine-tuned our abilities to refuse a night of going out in lieu of obligations. Being constantly faced with party possibilities is sort of like being given permission to eat chocolate cake for every meal. Sure, you’re excited to shovel frosting into your mouth for a couple of days, but soon you would realize every bite tastes… well, the same. Not so exciting, is it?
These days, there is nothing less appealing than rummaging around for a white shirt I can afford to destroy at a black light/highlighter party thrown by my classmate’s brother’s ex-girlfriend who sent a mass invite on Facebook.