Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My School, Party School

My School, Party School
By Chong-Hwey Fee

Last August, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign made headlines by being named the #1 party school in the country by The Princeton Review [1].


In 2016, UIUC is #3 on the list, and we have been in the top 5 for four years in a row. Yay again!

Why the long faces? Is it bad news? Why is it bad? How bad is it?

First and foremost, why would anybody confuse social life with quality of education anyway? But hang on, let’s indulge in this confusion just a little bit, because you won’t get to the bottom of the story if you don’t read it from beginning to end.

Then-Chancellor Phyllis Wise protested last year’s ranking: “... Our student body is comprised of the brightest, most hard-working students anywhere… It’s disappointing that, once again, Princeton Review is promoting this pseudo ranking as though it were meaningful. It’s insulting to all of our students, since they are here to prepare to become leaders of their generation.” [2]

How solemn and dignified! Obviously, Dr. Wise was offended by the ranking, as were some UIUC folks and alumni. I am not a big fan of the ranking myself, yet neither am I impressed by her reaction, which implies that students having a fun or balanced college life would somehow be an insult to the University.

Since I love my alma mater so much, I will not allow anybody to insult her. But before any review can be taken as an insult, we ought to find out the criteria for being labeled as a “party school.” A scholar’s gotta do what a scholar’s gotta do. First, let’s examine the matter scholastically and logically. What is the definition of “party school?” How are “party schools” ranked?

Definition and ranking criteria

The Princeton Review itself does not offer a clear and concise definition of “party school”. The ranking list covers nine general areas: Academics/Administration, Quality of Life, Politics, Campus Life, Town Life, Social Life, Extracurriculars, Social Scene and Schools by Type [3]. The “Type” of school gives us a glimpse into this notorious term “party school”. There are two types: Party Schools and Stone-Cold Sober Schools. It’s either black or white, no shades in between. Both lists are based on students' answers to survey questions concerning: the use of alcohol and drugs at their school, the number of hours they study each day outside of class time, and the popularity of fraternities/sororities at their school. Schools on the "Party Schools" list are those at which surveyed students' answers indicated a combination of low personal daily study hours (outside of class), high usage of alcohol and drugs on campus, and high prevalence of fraternities/sororities. Schools on the "Stone-Cold Sober Schools" list are just about the opposite.

Methodology of ranking
The Princeton Review claims, “Our 62 annual college rankings lists are entirely based on what students attending the schools in our Best Colleges book tell us about their colleges and their experiences at them via our student survey for this project… No ranking list reflects The Princeton Review's opinion of (or rating of) the colleges. A college's appearance on a ranking list in the book is entirely the result of what its own students surveyed by The Princeton Review reported about their campus experiences as well as how they rated various aspects of their college life.” [4]

Instead of censuring the Review, we probably should have questioned our own students who participated in the survey: What motivated them to participate in the survey? Why on earth did they party so hard? It was they who visited bars and engaged in drinking, after all. It definitely wasn’t the Public Relations or any spokesperson from the U of I who volunteered the information. I did some research but did not find sufficient info revealing how the subjects for the surveys were selected or screened. I have been conducting my own “survey” by asking students (a couple hundred) at social events since last year. I haven’t met a single person who participated in the survey or frantically drank at bars. The only occasion involving heavy drinking that people could think of was Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day. Regardless, I humbly suggest that our authorities do some research before responding to reviews. As to “personal daily study hours,” does a fixed amount of time qualify students as “hard-working?” Isn’t it generally true that the more brilliant a student is, the less time s/he spends studying? Furthermore, the popularity of Greek life accounts for one-third of the ranking by type. Before we beat ourselves up, we have to admit that having the largest Greek system in the country and their dynamic and energetic nature make college life enjoyable. College life would be dead boring if this part were missing, don’t you think? (The survey about the use of drugs boggles my mind. I wonder if the Review meant to challenge law enforcement to “catch ‘em if you can!”)

Also, is there any correlation between academic achievement and social engagement or networking? Some academically esteemed schools, such as UW-Madison, Penn State, and UT-Austin, have made the top party school list since 1983. Do people think less of them? I doubt it. What attracts the cream of the crop to top-notch schools? Yes, I am asking you! You are the cream of the crop, drawn to this top-notch school! You ought to be able to answer why you chose the University, despite the so-called “party school” title. It’s a well-known fact that the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois has been historically ranked in the top three in the nation. There are several other programs ranked in the top three in the nation for decades as well. Students have come from all over the U.S. and across the globe to get education here - is this a result of the applicants or their parents being concerned that, as the “party school” ranking goes up, the quality of education declines? If any parents hesitate to send their children to UIUC because of their concerns that it is a “party school,” I cannot help but ask: Why don’t they have confidence in their children to be mature and wise enough to make good choices? Or do the parents have any confidence in themselves that they have done a good job raising good kids?

I once read an article about a renowned director and his favorite leading actress having a romantic affair. I admired his apathy towards rumors and scandals. He believed that, to be successful in show business, you need 70 percent talent and hard work, and 30 percent good publicity. Academia and show business may not have much in common, but one attribute of rumors or scandals is almost universal: If you were no good, nobody would bother to make up rumors or sandals about you. The best way to deal with unwanted comments is really just to ignore them. I truly believe that no one can insult you unless you choose to feel insulted. It’s a dog’s nature to bark at passers-by. Don’t bark back! We cannot change the world, but we can certainly change our own attitude and reaction.

I remember this Chinese saying about college when I was growing up. It made us kids believe that college was four years’ worth of fun. It very loosely transliterates the English word “university” as  由你-玩-四年, meaning “as you please” (uni), “have fun” (wan), “four years” (si nian). My happiest time in life was indeed my college years. When my children went off to college, I blessed them with one piece of advice: Be safe, have fun, and work hard, in that particular order! I also pointed out that good judgment and making good choices were the bases for having fun. I wanted them to explore, experiment, and experience college as sensible and responsible grownups. Reflecting on The Princeton Review’s ranking, we did learn something valuable. As Wise said, “It gives us a chance to talk with our students and their parents about celebrating and relaxing safely.” After all, if anybody would condemn having fun in college, I feel online degrees would do them just fine.

That said, let’s party!

  1. Samuels, Alexandra. “Illinois Named Top Party School in the U.S.” USA TODAY College, August 3, 2015, Accessed 9/25/16
  2. Ibid.
3. Citation for Princeton Review party school criteria?

UIAAAN Newsletter - Summer edition June 30, 2016

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UIAAAN Newsletter - Summer edition
June 30, 2016

2016 UIAAAN Schoarship Recipients

Matthew Jason Hom & Emily Rohman

 UIAAAN President Ning Zulauf is flanked by the 2016 scholarship recipients Matthew Jason Hom and Emily Rohman



UIAAAN was proud to provide two $500 scholarships this year: to Matthew Jason Hom and Emily Rohman, both rising seniors. The scholarships were presented on Monday, April 26, 2016, at the 21st Annual Asian American Leadership Awards, held at the Alice Campbell Alumni Center on the UIUC campus in Urbana. Many thanks to our scholarship donors and support from the Asian American Culture Center. Matt currently is double majoring in Global Studies and Political Science. Emily is majoring in Community Health. See UIAAAN's interview with Matt to learn more about him.

Featured  Alumna: Reena Bajowala

Reena Bajowala, who obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English & Pre-Law from UIUC in 2001, is a partner in Jenner & Block’s Complex Commercial Litigation Department in Chicagoland. She is a great example of someone who has followed her passion and lived out her motto to “persevere despite the roadblocks that come your way.” Her Asian heritage, family education and Illinois experience have inspired her and shaped who she is today. More


Featured  Student: Sakshi Srivastava

In this issue, meet Sakshi Srivastava, who obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from UIUC in 2015. She continues her passion in Electrical and Electronics Engineering as a graduate student (for a master's degree) and a research assistant at UIUC. Sakshi presented at TEDxUIUC: Uncharted this year to share her personal journey as an international student and how she overcame various challenges and kept a positive mindset. In addition, she understands the underrepresentation of women in science and has initiated the bringing of a female engineer statue to the UIUC Engineering Quad. More


Photo and video by: TEDxUIUC 

UIAAAN News :New Board Members, Announcement, Mentoring

  • We are grateful to annouce Miss Katie Jin has newly joined the UIAAAN Board to contribute to UIAAAN's human recource management.
  • Call To Action from UI President Timothy Killeen The Illinois budget crisis has huge impacts from various perspectives. President Killeen encourages alumni to share their concerns with their local legislators to approve the state budget for fiscal 2016-2017 for public universities.
  • You can support UIAAAN and UIAAAN scholarships with up to $50 by just simply applying for the Illini Card and mentioning UIAAAN as the promotion code! This program (see details at right) is provided by the Alumni Association and the U. of I. Community Credit Union (formerly the U. of I. Employees Credit Union) to support alumni clubs and groups. We thank you in advance.
  • UIAAAN is going abroad! This year we are collaborating with the alumni leaders in China and Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) for the first time ever, to have a student and alumni Meet-and -Greet gathering in China! See more details in programming below.
  • Calling all small business owners in the U.S. to share your business website with UIAAAN for us to promote you on Small Business Day on November 28th in our Fall 2016 newsletter!! Contact us or send your URL to:                                                              

  • UIAAAN is relaunching its mentoring program! Whether you see yourself as a mentor or mentee, we want UIAAAN to help you reach out and receive or give help as needed. Contact Julian Ignacio at to get started or for more information.





Club Highlights: Illinois Alumni Club of Beijing

Chinese Language and International Development Society

  • In this June 2016 newsletter, we are pleased to introduce you to the Illinois Alumni Club of Beijing (IACB), as described by its president, Marco Reyes (LAS ‘09), who works in Camp Education and volunteers with the club because he loves Illinois.  He says friends were his favorite part of U. of I., and he was part of Omega Delta Fraternity, AIESEC, Kolusis, and International Illini Club.  Read more
  • Chinese Language and International Development Society (CLAID) is a newly established Registered Student Organization in 2015. The organization's goal is to build an intercultural environment for Chinese and domestic students to learn from each other. Read more


Illini in the News

Upcoming Events- Mark Your Calendar!

Saturday, July 9, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Chicago, IL - 2016 Brunch Series, July 

Saturday, July 9, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Shenzhen, China - 2016 UIAAAN Summer Alumni and Student Meet & Greet with alumni in Shenzhen

Saturday, August 6, Time: TBA. Shanghai, China - 2016 UIAAAN Summer Alumni and Student Meet & Greet with with Illinois Alumni Club of Shanghai


Guangzhou Meet and Greet

Thursday, June 30, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Guanzhou, China - 2016 UIAAAN Summer Alumni and Student Meet & Greet with Illinois Alumni Club of Guanzhou  


 Image: Beijing Meet and Greet by Illinois Alumni Club of Beijing (IACB)

Beijing Meet and Greet
Saturday, June 25, Noon- 2 p.m. Beijing, China 2016 UIAAAN Summer Alumni and Student Meet & Greet with Illinois Alumni Club of Beijing
Special thanks to Illinois Alumni Club of Beijing (IACB) president Marco Reyes (LAS ‘09) for collaborating with UIAAAN. About 20 alumni and students joined the event. According to Marco, the gathering was “small [and] intimate” and people had a great time.

Dragon Boat Race
Saturday, June 25th 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ping Tom Park, Chicago
The UIC Pyro Paddlers are back for their seventh year competing at the Chicago Dragon Boat Race for Literacy. The Pyro Paddlers are UIC students, staff, faculty and alumni who raced on Saturday, June 25th in Chinatown’s Ping Tom Park on the south branch of the Chicago River. Elvin Chan,  Assistant Director at the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center at UIC hopes UIUC alumni can team up next year to join the race! More

Career Workshop
Thursday, May 26, 2-4 p.m. Champaign, IL OPT Job Search Workshop
Mr. Un Yeong Park at The Career Center at Illinois invited UIAAAN to co-host a workshop focusing on Optional Practical Training (OPT) for international students and alumni with F-1 visas. In addition to Mr. Harrison Ding, the founder and CEO of Multiple Listing Network Ltd. (MLN), Ms. Wen Zheng represented UIAAAN and drew upon her personal career development with students and young alumni.




Did you know UIAAAN has a Facebook Group!?
If you are on Facebook, please join us and share your thoughts, events and news on our and UIAAAN Group page. Feel free to post and share anything you would like.


We encourage and nurture meaningful relationships to create a supportive community of Asian and Asian American alumni and students by providing comprehensive programming and opportunities that illustrate University of Illinois pride.



© 2016 University of Illinois Asian American Alumni Network

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Live and Let Die – or Let Live?

Politics is never my cup of tea; but I am afraid even with all the tea in China I would only be able to extinguish a tiny speck of fire. On Sep 10, 2015, President Obama directed the U.S. government to accept at least 10,000 refugees from Syria in the next fiscal year [1] and put himself on the hot seat. Whether the President’s commitment to taking in Syrian refugees was a good or bad decision, I must say it was a courageous one. It’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I am not about to suggest whether the U.S. or any other countries should take in or reject Syrian refugees, but just to challenge you to think outside the box.

Here are two extremes of the debate: some people argue that bringing in Syrian refugees is dangerous and sound as if they couldn’t care less if the refugees would die and rot, while others argue that even a human fetus has a right to life. According to one website, “an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011... According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3 million have fled to Syria's immediate neighbors: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq” [2].

Now, what is the American spirit? You can exhaust all sorts of definitions from historical, religious, cultural, political or educational aspects, but, in general, the international population would agree, “When the chips are down, when the going gets tough, when the weak need a helping hand, when someone is getting bullied, Americans step up” [3]. In reality, according to CNN [4], more than half of this nation's governors say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. People on radio shows condemn the President as being “un-American.” So, what happened to the “American spirit”? We allow fear to get the better of us, the fear of terrorist attacks -- so much so that certain states will not even take orphans under the age of five [5].

I do not intend to participate in the heated debate on whether or not to take in the refugees, or how many to take, or what religious group should be preferred, but to offer an alternative: What if we put our heads together to figure out a way for all the refugees to get a chance to live, and to live in dignity? A way to provide them a temporary safe place called “home”? A way to give them a chance to use their talents and skills to contribute to the world and fulfill their life purposes? A way to turn the threats around and create a win-win situation?

I have been involved in peer mediation. One important step towards resolving any issues is to have both parties listen to each other. Let’s try to understand each other’s point of view, shall we?

Good people of the United States, here are our concerns:
Terrorism: There might be terrorists among the refugees, the “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, who sneak up on a flock.
Social welfare: The little ones and the pregnant will consume more food, and the old and the sick will further weigh us down.
Disease control: The sick and the weak might bring in rare or unknown diseases.
Financial management: For crying out loud, our nation is already in debt!
And the list goes on.

The poor Syrian refugees are literally crying for dear life. Let’s hear them:
Necessity: We are less fortunate, helpless souls longing for merely basic human needs: simply some food and water to sustain our lives, a bed even just big enough to huddle with our family members to rest at night, a roof and walls to ward off rain and wild animals.
Terrorism? Based on The UNHCR’s registration data, over half of us are women, and more than half of our men are either younger than 18 or older than 60, and many young men in Syria don’t want to fight [6]. In any event of war, it is always the innocent women and children who suffer the most. Why is it that the innocent should bear the consequences for a war that they did not declare? You see, we are victimized at least three times during this crazy refugee movement: our loved ones got killed, we lost our homes and jobs and live in poverty, and we have no future outlook because our presumed friends prevaricate and try to avoid us. Our chances of survival are up to the mercy of other kind homo sapiens. We are so vulnerable that we cannot even afford to think if we would be attacked by insane xenophobes in a foreign country! Even culture shock sounds too luxurious to scare us. Please put yourselves in our shoes. Would you like to leave your sweet homes by force?
Financial burden: Do you think that we Syrian refugees will be absolutely incapable of contributing to the growth of the U.S. or the rest of the world? Would you please sit on it for just a little while?

Now that we’ve heard both sides, let’s brainstorm and explore possibilities. I like to shrink problems to a smaller scale. Consider this: Would I open my house to accommodate all the homeless in town just because I have a big mansion on a huge tract of land? Suppose my spouse already agreed to take them in, so I have to support his decision. I am scared because I don’t know them. Would they rob or steal? Am I responsible to take care of them if they get sick? Would they spread germs and viruses in my household? Should I provide their children with educational opportunities? How do I manage to bring in extra income with so many mouths to feed and provide extra clothing to keep them warm? All these concerns are legitimate. It doesn’t mean that if I inherited a huge parcel of land and a mansion, I am supposed to be able to support anybody other than my own family. But it’s such a blessing to have land and a mansion, isn’t it? Suppose I lay out a tentative 5-year plan as such: I give the homeless tools and materials, and have the young and strong build their own lodging on my land, like the Amish do, loan them money to buy seeds to grow crops and livestock to raise, let the educated train their own children and the uneducated….... Do you see what I am getting at?

Let’s go back to the Syrian refugee situation.
Housing: I learned about Habitat of Humanity because of President Jimmy Carter’s involvement. Did you know that in fiscal year 2015, Habitat served nearly 1.8 million people through home construction, incremental construction, rehabilitation, repairs or increased access to improved shelter through their products and services [7]? If we are so concerned about young Syrian males, we can use their muscles and energy for building homes for their own communities with the help of Habitat.
Food: Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption. That comes at an annual cost of more than $100 billion [8]. Can we spare some food to feed those disadvantaged friends?
Reciprocal Favors: As it stands now, we are importing a great deal of general merchandise and commodities from other countries. Some large corporations recruit their employees by outsourcing or subcontracting. Couldn’t we provide these jobs to refugees? We’ve heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” One benefit, in my humble opinion, is that refugees will be proud of themselves if they can work and earn their own living rather than being provided handouts; additionally, we are not relying on tax revenues or donations to support them. Their productivity will only stimulate the U.S. economy.
A land called “home”: The vast land of Planet Earth is big enough to let anybody live, if they so wish. It sounds absurd that anyone should die because there’s a shortage of land. If we need time to get to know each other – wouldn’t it be reasonable that refugees are scared of the people of the host country, too? – we could temporarily provide them a “village” in which they stay and feel secure, as the Amish have been doing. They can take the time to learn the language and ease into the U.S. or other cultures of the host countries, during which time, there will be interactions between them and the outside world.

I am by no means describing a utopia for the refugees; nor am I saying there will not be unforeseen challenges, no matter how perfect a plan appears; but ponder this: what is the value of life? The most precious gift anybody can give is life. We cannot create any but can certainly save some. Religious people believe that God is omniscient but do not trust that the Shepherd is herding the sheep to the haven called the United States. Quite odd, isn’t it?

I am scratching my head so hard trying to help our miserable homeless friends and in the meantime to also comfort our kind and generous fellow citizens who so want to lend a helping hand but are so scared of inviting unwanted tag-alongs. It sounds to me as though there would be guaranteed no more terrorist attacks if none of the refugees entered the U.S., and if they entered, there would definitely be an increasing number of attacks. It’s so sad to think there’s no trust in another human or race or religious group. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” [9]. The first thing we should overcome, before we can resolve any issue, is our own fear.

Do we teach our children “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”? In a similar token, if we want to be treated with kindness, we ought to show others kindness because we are teaching them how to be kind. As far as I am concerned, there is only one race, which is the human race, and one home, which is the Planet Earth. Listen to how the World Pledge goes: “I pledge allegiance to Humanity, and to the World that gives us life, one People, united in diversity, and one World, united in peace, with freedom and dignity for all" [10]. I am throwing in my two pennies’ worth in the hope that more people will focus on the survival of the refugees and exploring possible living arrangements for them.

*I am solely responsible for my views on this controversial issue. The University of Illinois Asian American Alumni Network does not endorse or condemn my opinions. ~ Chong-Hwey Fee

Citations (accessed Nov. 21, 2015)