Friday, March 7, 2003

Green Beer Day somewhat flat; fewer revelers

Oxford bars report slow business; only three arrests

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Miami University grad student Sean Puckett, 26, of Memphis, is dressed appropriately for the special day
(Michael Snyder photos)
| ZOOM |
OXFORD - On Thursday, Green Beer Day didn't seem to be "flowing" as well as in years past.

Some taverns here opened as early as 4:30 a.m. for breakfast, then tapped kegs full of green-tinted beer around 5 a.m. But by mid-afternoon, some party spots had already closed because of slow business - possibly because of an early morning snowfall, savvy professors scheduling exams that day or winter-weary students leaving town early to reach sunny vacation spots. "It's been a pretty slow Green Beer Day - so far," said Oxford Police Lt. Bob Holzworth, noting only three disorderly conduct citations as of 4:30 p.m.

Still, there were noticeable signs that students were observing Green Beer Day, a Miami University tradition dating to the post-World War II era. Loosely tied to St. Patrick's Day, the event serves as a prelude to Spring Break. Classes end today and resume March 17.

On Thursday, young men stood drinking beer in front of a fraternity house yelling, "Woo!" - that signature war cry of college partiers; a young woman walked out of Skipper's Pub, tossing a green-and-white feather boa over her shoulder.

And green T-shirts or hooded sweatshirts were de rigueur, although many bore slogans that could be considered politically incorrect amid growing concerns about binge-drinking among young people. One shirt conjugated the verb: "Drink. Drank. Drunk." Another said, "If you're not wasted by 5:30 (a.m.), your day is."

During the 2001-2002 academic year, Miami University's Judicial Affairs office, a "student court," saw:
• 573 students referred to two-hour substance abuse education programs
• 217 students referred to substance abuse assessment programs
• 8 students suspended for repeat and/or serious alcohol violations
Source: Holly Wissing, university spokeswoman
But a number of revelers said their goal wasn't to get drunk; it was to have fun - responsibly.

Sean Puckett, 26, a graduate assistant, appeared every bit the Green Beer Day poster boy.

He wore a three-foot-tall green foam leprechaun's hat and a Green Beer Day T-shirt that urged, "Wet Your Pipes." But while Sean said he started his day off at 5:30 a.m. with friends at a local establishment, he said he downed Sprite while they swilled green beer. He planned to join in the drinkin' o' the green later, saying, "It's fun. It's a big party...It's just a way to blow off steam," he said. "But some people do just want to get plastered."

A Duke University study released last month showed college students were at increased risk for unwanted sex, traffic crashes and other hazards because of binge-drinking-induced blackouts.

Stephanie Buckpitt, 21, said all campuses, including Miami, have a problem with binge-drinking, and "it happens if Green Beer Day happens or not." She said the event is okay and a lot of fun "as long as people don't over-do." But then she gestured toward the fraternity house where the guys were whooping and hollering, and added, "obviously, some people don't follow that."

Inside Skipper's Pub, a trio of 21-year-olds, Mandy Adams, Krista Doan and Danielle Owen, sat smiling and drinking green beer, sporting green T-shirts. "It's a great time to relax and get ready for spring break," Adams said; all three said they were headed for sunny destinations.

Some faculty members noted lower classroom attendance, although they attributed few absences to Green Beer Day - or to an e-mailed hoax on Wednesday that said classes were canceled Thursday.

Holly Wissing, a university spokeswoman, said the university's computer technology experts on Thursday were continuing their efforts to trace the source of the bogus e-mail that was doctored to appear as though it came from University President James Garland. "We may or may not be able to get to the bottom of it," she said. University officials sent out a campus-wide e-mail exposing the hoax and posted a notice on the university Internet site.

As of mid-afternoon Thursday, Miami police had reported "not a single Green-Beer-Day-related problem," Wissing said.

Jon Gambrell contributed to this story.


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