Western Ontario top party school: Playboy
It's an honour that isn't likely to make it into the brochures at the University of Western Ontario. The London, Ont., university, which has been trying to shed its wild reputation, has been crowned one of the best party schools in North America by Playboy magazine.
Western was the only Canadian school to make the magazine's annual Top 10 party schools list. The university is ranked fourth, behind the University of Colorado at Boulder, Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University.
"More than 20,000 undergrads enjoy a drinking age of 19 at this London, Ontario school," the magazine wrote. "The bar scene is kicking. On Tuesdays students cram into Ceeps to play Sledgehammer Bingo, which is basically an excuse to strip and drink (as if one were needed), and both St. Patrick's Day and Halloween are monumental occasions as well."
Students at Western embraced their newfound fame Thursday, particularly at Saugeen-Maitland Hall, a co-ed residence nicknamed "the Zoo" and singled out by Playboy as "notorious for partying."
"Most people I've talked to are proud about it," said Reiko McLaughlin, 19, a first-year student who lives in the residence.
But school administrators said they're surprised to have made the list.
Western was known as a party school in the '80s and '90s, but since then, "there's been a very focused effort at Western to raise our academic profile," said John Doerksen, Western's vice-provost.
Over the years, the university has worked hard to keep partying under control through a number of programs, including one that has police patrol student neighbourhoods, he said, adding there haven't been "any particular issues" with rowdy or destructive parties in recent years.
The school is known for throwing massive bashes for Halloween and St. Patrick's Day — "much more than any other university" — and having keg parties every weekend, said Gloria Dickie, a third-year student.
But McLaughlin said the university's reputation is slightly exaggerated.
"I don't feel [the partying] is too outrageous [compared with other schools]," she said. "I feel it's an old reputation based on stories from the past."
Strip photo sparked debate
In 2005, a student was photographed taking her clothes off during a party at Saugeen-Maitland Hall. Photos of the so-called Saugeen Stripper were later posted online.
The case sparked a national debate over how much universities can control what happens inside residences.
The university isn't worried its sudden fame will attract more hard-partying students, Doerksen said.
"I don't know how many of them would look to Playboy to get advice on ideas on where to go," he said. "I think there are other very substantive surveys and information rankings and so forth for students to make their choices."
Playboy sought input from students, alumni and fans of the magazine's social media pages to determine the rankings. Male-female ratios, academics, winning sports teams and proximity to beaches, ski slopes and lively music scenes were all factors in the rankings.