The Princeton Review ranked American University the sixth most politically active college in the country, one year after placing AU at No. 1.
George Washington University holds the top spot this year.
Most Politically Active is one of 62 rankings lists in eight categories in the Princeton Review’s “Best 366 College Rankings - 2008 Edition.” The rankings are based on a survey of 120,000 students at 366 “top colleges” across the nation, according to a press release by the Princeton Review. At each campus, 325 students were surveyed per campus with 90 percent of responders completing their surveys online and 10 percent answering via paper, according to the press release.
Students were asked one question per ranking list. The Most Politically Active ranking was based on the question “How popular are political/active groups on your campus?”
Some AU students questioned the validity of the ranking.
The survey method is not reliable, said John Cipriani, president of AU College Democrats and a senior in the School of Public Affairs.
“It’s completely subjective ... students are just going to answer whatever they want,” Cipriani said. “It’s really not in my opinion a very telling sign.”
Will Haun, president of AU College Republicans and a junior in SPA, disagreed with the notion that AU’s political participation has declined in the past year.
“We’ve had one of our best years on record,” Haun said of the College Republicans.
The College Republicans volunteered a total of 1,400 hours for House and Senate campaigns in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, Haun said.
The College Democrats campaigned in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania last fall as well said Cipriani.
Both groups organized the September 11 remembrance ceremony last year and held two debates on immigration and global warming.
Despite this controversy, College Democrats and College Republicans are undertaking ambitious projects this year as the 2008 president race heats up.
Haun said in a phone interview that his group is planning a trip to the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries in January.
Cipriani said that in addition to campaigning, College Democrats will volunteer with DC Today… DC Tomorrow, a community service and mentorship program in the District.
Personal views will obstruct honest responses, said Okan Camci, a senior in the Kogod School of Business. Some students may give a negative answer based on individual circumstances while other students may give a positive one based on school spirit, he said.
“Nobody can be completely honest,” Camci said. “There will always be a bias.”
Inadequate funding limits the activities of political groups at AU, Haun said.
AU clubs receive a total of $100,000, said Kristen Lyons, chair of the AU Club Council and a junior in the School of International Service. Allocations are decided by a panel of seven people, including a Graduate Leadership Council representative, a Student Government representative and five club representatives elected to the panel, she said.
Lyons is working towards reforms to the AU Constitution to allow more money, she said.
“I’m trying to free up more money for clubs,” Lyons said.
Rankings aside, many students said AU also opens opportunities for students interested in careers in politics.
Tom Osadnik, a senior in SPA, had an internship at the offices of Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., every semester from August 2005 to May 2006. The internship gave him a “real-life Capitol Hill experience,” something that sitting in a classroom would not provide, he said.
AU’s proximity to Capitol Hill made the experience possible. An AU student could get a high-level job or internship in government if he or she worked for it, he said.
“If you really want the internship and the experience, you can go get it,” Osadnik said. “Everything is accessible.”