Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The druggiest colleges in America?

The front page of our almost-daily newspaper blared with a headline about the college where I teach being "not among 'druggiest' schools, locals say."

Which I think violates certain rules taught in journalism school about writing headlines and "not" being not news in the first place. In any case.

The article tells us that The Daily Beast posted a list of the "50 druggiest colleges" in the United States. Included in the top 10 were the college where I now teach. (So, technically, it is among the "druggiest" schools, in contradiction to the headline.)

"I think the whole thing is preposterous," the article quotes the mayor of our fair city saying.

I agree. Although not necessarily for the same reason as hizzoner.

The piece is clearly a bit of snark - I mean, this is the Web site that Tina Brown founded and edited - responding to "Operation Ivy League" that snared students dealing drugs at Columbia University.

Its "methodology" is. Well. Creative. (I can snark, too.)

The grown-ups see a list like this as discrediting the work that they do to protect and promote the health, well-being, and safety of the students here. Not to mention to teach them.

It is also demeaning to the students who take seriously that "the college has raised its standards, and the quality of the students has improved," as one student told the almost-daily. However, Operation Ivy League itself seems to belie the assumption that the selectivity of the college and the SAT scores of the students can be taken as signs of Moral Character and / or Intelligent Decision Making.

Interestingly, the elite college that StraightMan and I attended as undergraduates - Williams - is also included in the top 10, even with a drug use grade of A- from a student review database called College Prowler: "A high grade, i.e. an A+, indicates that drugs and alcohol are not noticeable on campus and there is no pressure to use drugs."

I wonder what college kids - and a lot of them see themselves as kids - think about this. With higher education resembling a marketplace of branded names that offer more or less the same kinds of bells and whistles, to what extent might the notoriety of being ranked among the druggiest colleges in America actually distinguish one brand from another? With the result of making a school better known and more attractive?

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