Thursday, March 6, 2003

The hoax is on MU - classes DO meet today

By Jon Gambrell
and William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

OXFORD - Tongues will be green and eyes will be red today during Green Beer Day at Miami University.

But there will be classes today - despite an e-mail that circulated Wednesday night that purported to cancel classes.

"The e-mail message that many Miami students, faculty and staff received alleging that classes were canceled for Thursday, March 6, is a hoax," said a message on the university's home page.

The phony e-mail purported to be from Miami President James Garland, canceling classes "due to circumstances beyond my control."

"I called Dr. Garland. He confirmed it's a hoax," said Miami spokeswoman Holly Wissing.

She said it appeared students used spam technology to send mass e-mails, but did not hack into the university's Web site.

Wissing said classes will be held today and Friday as scheduled. There'll be no classes next week because of spring break, she said. "There are people investigating this as we speak," Wissing said of the hoax.

Green Beer Day is a long-standing student tradition that university officials discourage. It marks the last Thursday before spring break. Bars open at 5 a.m., dispensing green-colored ale. For some, drinking will continue throughout the day.

Miami officials urged individual professors not to cancel classes today. Visibly inebriated students in class will be subject to disciplinary action, officials said.

Some administrators and faculty say the celebration - loosely tied to St. Patrick's Day and dating to the post-World War II era - is out of place in a time of rising concerns about binge drinking on American college campuses.

"Our stance on Green Beer Day is twofold," said Dick Nault, vice president of student affairs for the university.

"First of all, we are against high-risk alcohol consumption. Secondly, we believe if a student chooses to participate and comes into class intoxicated, we will take action against them."

Action, according to Nault, could range from asking the student to leave to reporting the person to student judicial affairs.

Oxford Police Chief Stephan Schwein said that the department planned to pull in their day shift a little earlier in response to the early morning drinking.

Those who choose to imbibe, he said, "need to keep in mind is the fact that while they are celebrating, others are going to school, working or opening up their shops," Schwein said.

The Police Department will focus attention primarily on open containers, underage consumption and bars serving to intoxicated patrons. Schwein said there have been no major problems and few arrests in recent years, but officers do cite violators.

Despite the protest of the faculty, the annual event has a strong following.

According to research conducted by Diane Kaufman of Miami University's Western College Memorial Archives, the first reference to green beer came from a March 14, 1952, student newspaper article.

"I had never heard of anything like it before," said Kaufman, who has worked at several other universities. "It is difficult to explain to people."

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