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Mon, Feb. 17

Is party school image shifting from ASU to UA?

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona State University has long had a reputation of being the state's biggest party school, but that image could be shifting a bit to the south.

The University of Arizona in Tucson is cracking down on a surge of unruly behavior, removing four fraternities and suspending another, and busting more students for alcohol violations on campus. The school also has struggled to restrain its boisterous student cheering section, known as the Zona Zoo, at sports games.

And in May, Playboy magazine named UA No. 5 in its biennial party-school rankings. ASU, which once topped the list, trailed at No. 15.

To be fair, ASU has had its share of bad behavior over the years and party-school rankings are subjective.

Still, the Playboy ranking and some incidents have put UA, often in the news for its scientific breakthroughs, in a new light. A "party school" tag can hurt a university's reputation among student prospects and parents.

Carol Thompson, UA's assistant vice president for student affairs, said the university is redoubling efforts to warn students about alcohol abuse and remind them about proper behavior at sporting events.

"We are a good academic institution," she said. "We also have strong standards around safety and what we expect around behavior."

In 2008, UA saw an increase in alcohol violations on campus with 484 issued. That's a 42 percent increase over the previous year and the most in at least five years.

UA Police Commander Robert Sommerfeld attributed the rise to a combination of other violations, more officers and more people willing to file reports.

Since fall 2008, UA has removed four fraternities for various infractions such as hazing and alcohol violations. Another fraternity had its charter pulled Aug. 27 by its national organization.

UA also asked each of the more than three dozen other sororities and fraternities to come up with an action plan this fall for curbing criminal behavior and sticking to policies. Many are providing more education to their members about the dangers of alcohol abuse, and fraternities are discussing whether to prohibit alcohol at the nine of 11 on-campus fraternity houses that allow it. The 11 on-campus sorority houses already ban alcohol.

"It's been a very difficult year, that's for sure," said Keegan Stombaugh, a 22-year-old senior and president of the Interfraternity Council, which governs most of the fraternities.

He said Greek organizations will continue to grow and thrive and that he doesn't give much weight to the Playboy rankings.

"It never hurts to have a good time as long as you do well academically," he said.

There's also the Zona Zoo, billed as the largest student cheering section in the Pac-10. In October, the Zoo found itself in hot water when too many people tried to crowd into the stadium section at the homecoming game. Hundreds were turned away and one student who began fighting with an officer was shocked with a Taser stun gun.

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