published Monday, August 11th, 2014

Tennessee's 'tamest' party school is ...

  • photo
    Incoming freshman Peter Wolcott walks across a yard at Southern Adventist University on Friday. Faculty and students have embraced SAU's recent selection as Tennessee's "tamest" college campus.
    Photo by Shawn Paik.
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When students arrive at Southern Adventist University for fall classes, they'll be attending what's been dubbed the "tamest party school" in Tennessee.

The website ecollegefinder.org recently released a list of the one campus in each state least likely to have a "raging party scene," and the private, Christian university in Collegedale ranked first in the Volunteer State.

Students and officials at Southern Adventist University didn't seem to mind the "tamest" label. Seventh-day Adventists don't drink or smoke, and about half are vegetarian -- so the news wasn't news to them.

"I'm proud," said Hannah Kelsey, a freshman from St. Louis. "I think it's a good thing. I like it because I like to focus on my studies."

Kelsey was shopping with friends at the Village Market, a supermarket across from campus that has a wide selection of Adventist-friendly items including nonalcoholic wine, meat and milk substitutes and nut butters.

"I don't have a problem with it," said Chantel Larsen, a freshman education major from Wichita, Kan. "I'm here for an education."

University President Gordon Bietz seemed amused by the "tamest" ranking, saying it sounded "true enough."

"We don't see it as a liability at all," he said.

Students are drawn to Southern Adventist University because of the campus environment, said Bietz, who's seen the enrollment increase by more than 1,200 students since he took the helm in 1997.

"I think we have a very happy school," Bietz said. "We have a lot of parties here: Saturday night parties, welcome back parties, birthday parties."

He added, "We don't have alcohol, and we don't countenance out-of-wedlock sex."

While Southern Adventist University was ranked as having the tamest campus in Tennessee, it didn't make the website's top 10 "tamest" list, all but two of which are Christian schools. The top-ranked campus was Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell.

Bietz didn't think Southern Adventist University needed to make the top 10, nationally.

"I think it's tame enough," he said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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