Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Calmer GBD could indicate change in Miami drinking culture

The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

We planned to run several Green Beer Day-related stories following the March 15 festivities.

We sent a reporter on a ride-along with the Oxford Police Department (OPD), preemptively requested police records for that day, as well as several previous Green Beer Days, talked to city officials and then waited for stories to present themselves. They didn't.

Green Beer Day went on, but with EMS calls down by half from last year, and underage alcohol violation arrests down by two-thirds (though the drop was somewhat inflated due to OPD's special task force last year to catch those kinds of violations).

The holiday was still a headache for police, residents, the fire department and professors, of course, but the number of violations and emergency runs was notably lower.

And on a three-hour ride-along, around the time the bars opened at 5:30 a.m., our reporter observed nothing you couldn't witness on a normal Friday or Saturday night in Oxford. OPD Chief John Jones told another reporter that the day was "fairly mild" in terms of crime, and that the tradition might even be "dying."

So we scrapped our handful of Green Beer Day story ideas and consolidated them into one news feature. We realized Green Beer Day probably wouldn't be an annual controversy without accompanying media coverage, and we hope that, maybe, this year might be an indication that Miami's drinking culture is actually changing.

The Miami community rallied for change in our collective drinking habits last year, following the alcohol-related death of an 18-year-old student just before spring semester began and a single weekend in February that saw 21 students hospitalized for alcohol-related complications. The Associated Student Government and the Residence Hall Association hosted a huge informational forum, and President Crawford addressed the student body.

Then last March, the OPD cracked down on Green Beer Day. They cited 33 underage alcohol violations, and passed out five citations for fake IDs. But the 24-hour party raged, and 17 alcohol- or drug-related emergency runs were made by the fire department. So, nothing really changed.

But real change takes time -- more than a few weeks, or even months.

Green Beer Day is a tradition and a part of student life for many Miamians. There's no reason people shouldn't be able to celebrate it safely. Hopefully, eventually, no Miami student's Green Beer Day will end with getting arrested, calling an ambulance for their friend or having one called for themselves.

The statistics and anecdotes (or lack thereof) that came out of this year's Green Beer Day point toward the kind of cultural change that we all called for last year. People were, generally, more cooperative with police, engaged in less criminal behavior (statistically, at least) and professors recorded impressive attendance numbers considering the festivities Uptown.

It would be premature -- and naive -- to assume this means Miami's drinking culture is actually shifting. But, again, real change does not occur instantaneously, or even over the course of one or two semesters, and we hope this relatively uneventful Green Beer Day indicates that change is imminent.