Those of us in Miami’s Division of Student Life have had many conversations with students, colleagues and Oxford residents in recent weeks about the City of Oxford’s proposal to expand the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) policy from a summer initiative to a year-round practice. DORA allows establishments in an area of Uptown to sell alcoholic beverages in designated cups that can be consumed outdoors in the DORA area from 11 a.m.- 11 p.m., seven days a week. Our understanding of the city’s motivation for this change is to bring more “vibrancy” to Oxford and to encourage more people to spend time Uptown.
Much of the concern expressed so far, including in The Miami Student, has been about trash, sustainability and the potential abuse of the policy, particularly by students. As leaders in the Division of Student Life, all of whom reside in Oxford, we are opposed to the DORA expansion. While we agree with some of the arguments already outlined, we have some additional concerns based on conversations we’ve had on and off campus.
Drinking patterns among our students have changed over time. While many people assume that “all” students drink and “most'' participate in binge drinking or blackout culture, the data tells a different story. According to recent Miami surveys, 77% of students meet the definition of non-drinker or moderate drinker in their first year.
Further, when we look at results from Miami’s annual student health survey, administered to students of all class years, alcohol consumption has been declining in recent years. Thirty-seven percent of respondents reported not drinking at all in the last 30 days, and 86% participated in only low-risk drinking behaviors. This matches national trends that show that college student drinking is decreasing.
Students who do not drink alcohol or are low-risk drinkers are often invisible in the Oxford community, where students at front-yard parties and local bars are more noticeable. But they are a significant portion of our community.
For years we have heard from students that “the only thing to do Uptown is drink.” This sentiment led us to create “Late Night Miami” programming several years ago, providing alcohol-free events on campus every weekend to help students find others with similar interests. We also hear from students already in recovery, who struggle to find activities Uptown that do not revolve around alcohol. Students who choose not to drink or who drink occasionally and moderately tell us that going to concerts in the Uptown park, getting ice cream or coffee, enjoying the farmer’s market or just walking around High Street provides them with a sense of community and belonging in Oxford and at Miami. It is these students who are being forgotten in the proposal to expand DORA.
Students who choose to consume alcohol already have a variety of options to do that Uptown, some with outdoor access. Most of those students act responsibly. They see alcohol consumption as a normal part of college life, and would continue to do so with an expanded DORA.
But those who seek out a different type of experience, without alcohol present, deserve places Uptown where they can go to shop, socialize and enjoy the outdoors. The expansion of this policy would remove the already limited alcohol-free options for them Uptown.
Please don’t leave these students behind, Oxford.
— Dr. Jayne Brownell, Vice President for Student Life
Dr. Kimberly Moore, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students
Dr. Steve Large, Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness