Quality of life echoes Princeton Review ranks, University admins say
Washington University officials expressed satisfaction last week with the school’s high quality of life rankings in the Princeton Review this year, attributing the performance to student feedback and the hard work of administrators.
Steve Hoffner, associate vice chancellor for operations on the Danforth Campus, said he is pleased with the University’s rankings. He credits the University’s No. 4 rank in the “Quality of Life” category to the fact that the administration listens to feedback from the student body.
“We actively seek student input on all of our services and programs. We listen, and we make changes when they are reasonable and within our ability to do so,” Hoffner wrote in an e-mail to Student Life.
The University also placed in top rankings for several subcategories, including 10th in both “Best Campus Food” and “Dorms Like Palaces.”
The publication surveys more than 122,000 students each year to rank 20 schools in a variety of categories for its “Best 371 Colleges” book. The 2010 rankings came out in July.
The Quality of Life category judges schools based on the quality of their food, dorms, campus accessibility and attraction, safety, surrounding communities, administrative operation and students’ interactions, friendliness and overall happiness.
Rice University was ranked at No. 1 in Quality of Life, followed by Bowdoin College, Claremont McKenna College and Washington University. Other schools featured in the category include Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Middlebury College, Smith College, Barnard College, St. Michael’s College and Clemson University.
Justin Carroll, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of students, also noted the role of students’ feedback in the University’s high quality of life ranking.
“[Continuing to seek input of our students and other University colleagues] is the way things are done here—it is part of our campus culture,” Carroll said.
A Campus Services Committee within Student Union and headed by junior Greg Schweizer focuses on improving non-academic aspects of the University, such as dining, transport, security, residential life and sustainability. An administrator sits in on the committee’s weekly meetings to ensure that its members are aware of new developments within the University. The process also allows the committee to make suggestions about campus life to the administration.
Last week, the committee met with Hoffner and Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager for Bon Appétit. According to the SU blog, the committee suggested that certain food items from last year’s menus be returned as meal options, the possibility of a crepe night in Ursa’s Café and the use of biodegradable plastic water cups.
Dining Services is already incorporating some of these suggestions into practice, according to Hoffner.
The administration takes recommendations from students in other forms as well, such as through comment cards and advisory committees for dining services and parking and transportation.
“The administration is responsive because they care about undergrads,” Schweizer said.
Schweizer said he believes the University is worthy of its ranking.
“I think we have a really great quality of life,” he said. “I think our dining is superb. I think our housing for the most part is far above other institutions.”
For Hoffner, having the 10th best campus food is well deserved, too.
“We offer more locations and more operating hours than many of our peer institutions,” Hoffner wrote. “Overall, I think the quality of our food is outstanding.”
Hoffner indicated that once the issues with dining on the South 40 are fixed next year, the food on campus will be even better.
“We know that we are limited on dining space and options this year, but we are confident that next year we will have the best university dining facilities in the country,” he wrote.
Besides the food services, the University benefits from other attributes that Hoffner believes may have helped the institution in its rankings. The Washington University Police Department (WUPD), for one, is a great asset to the University, according to Hoffner.
“WUSTL’s Police Department is headed by one of the most widely respected University Police Chiefs in the country, Don Strom,” he wrote.
Hoffner also complimented WUPD’s off-campus involvement, coordination with the city police and its positive interactions with the student body.
Hoffner said, overall, that the people who work at the University make all the difference.
“We have an incredibly dedicated staff in Student Affairs, Campus Life, Residential Life, Student Financial Services, Student Health & Wellness and many other departments,” Hoffner wrote. “They truly care about students, and they are totally committed to making WUSTL among the very best in the country.”
Carroll pointed out, however, that the reasons behind the administration’s decisions are not merely for the sake of gaining high rankings.
“It is always nice, of course, to be considered by others who provide input such rankings. But the rankings don’t motivate our decisions—our students do,” Carroll said.