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Opinion | Oxford: A drinking town with a college problem

Emily's Antics

By Emily Eldridge
On April 18, 2014

Before you read this column, find a Miami University student and ask them to describe a typical weekend in Oxford.

Chances are their story will involve the mass consumption of watered down beer and/or some variation of a 20 oz. mixed drink.

That whole drink-to-get-drunk thing, otherwise known as binge drinking, is increasingly popular among college students, yes, even at Miami. In fact, The Princeton Review ranked Miami ninth in the nation among top party schools in 2013. And though that isn't something most of us are boasting, it is clear that Miami likes to drink...a lot.

To get a better idea as to why and how binge drinking has seeped into our university's culture, I surveyed 128 Miami University students who live or have lived in Oxford.

For starters, 100 percent of respondents agreed that Miami students drink heavily. In addition, about 60 percent of respondents believed Miami students drink more heavily than students at other college campuses. I then asked respondents to describe their reasoning behind the binge drinking culture at Miami in a couple sentences. The answers to this question led me to three conclusions.

First, Miami is in the middle of nowhere. The closest mall is about an hour away. And if you choose to venture to Cincinnati or Dayton: Corn. Everywhere. I call this the farm effect. If you look at the rest of the top party schools on The Princeton Review's list, you'll notice most of them are located in communities similar to Oxford.

For example, the biggest party school in the country, Iowa State (ISU), has about three times the residents as Oxford, but it too is in the middle of nowhere. Outside of the city of Ames, IA, there isn't much going on other than cow herding and corn picking.

Ohio University (OU) is located in Athens, Ohio and has a population almost identical to Oxford (around 22,000). According to The Princeton Review, OU is seventh among top party schools in the nation. Students at ISU and OU probably have their own variation of the "Oxford Bubble."

Since Oxford is so small, almost all residences are within walking distance of Uptown restaurants and bars. For this reason, students can drink to the point of blacking out without worrying about driving, finding a ride home or venturing into a bad part of town like they would at OSU or UC. Though Oxford is a very safe place to attend college, it can get pretty boring pretty quickly because of its size. When students are looking for something fun to do with friends, our options are limited.

Next, Miami students have a tendency to drink just because. At larger schools, students can tailgate at sporting events on Saturdays or sit at a bar with friends to watch their basketball team compete in tournaments. That is not the case at Miami. A popular topic of conversation is Miami athletics. And I hate to bring it up, but we are all familiar with last year's disgraceful football record. A big part of a traditional college experience is attending these sporting events on the weekends, but Miami students just don't get to experience this. Miami students compensate by drinking heavily with really no motive. Beat the Clock and Broken Clock are the best examples of this. When students start chugging pitchers of beer at 1 or 2 p.m. and continue to do so until the sun sets, they are just drinking because, well, what else is there to do?

The point I'd like to make is that most college students at other universities have things to do on the weekends that are university-affiliated, like football or basketball games. We do not. So to keep us from going mentally insane from boredom, we go to Brick Street and The Wood's to pass the time.

And finally, Miami's binge drinking culture can be attributed to the businesses that serve the alcohol.

There are roughly 20 bars in Oxford and only a few of them restrict access to 21 and over. And even at these 21-and-up bars, students can often slide by with a fake form of identification. Though it is irresponsible, and not to mention illegal, for underage students to use fake I.D.'s, many Oxford bars continue to serve them. You don't see this at most colleges. If you have had the chance to visit schools like Michigan State University or the University of Dayton, for example, only students who are 21 or over go to the bars and it is much harder to get by with a fake I.D.

Even if individuals under 21 enter a bar with an "X" on their hands, they often have of-age friends who are willing and able to purchase their drinks. Day drinking specials like Beat the Clock and Broken Clock also allow unders to drink at their leisure, though the bars are becoming stricter during the daytime.

I am happy to see Miami University off the 2014 list of top party school for various reasons, but I do believe binge drinking is still a part of our university's culture. And unless we move the campus down to Miami, FL, I don't see that changing any time soon for the reasons described above.

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