Springtime in a College Town

The sun is shining bright and the blue sky is full of large puffy white clouds. The windows of my car are down as I drive back to campus after grabbing some things from Walmart. I enter the Mile Square, which is where most of the undergraduate students at Miami University live. The eccentric house signs took a back seat as I notice students of all sorts doing yard work.

Yes, undergraduate students are doing yard work on a beautiful spring evening.

Of course, this is not the yard work that often comes with a nice spring day. Instead, the students are setting up tents and fencing off parts of their yard with orange construction fence or rope. Newly laid hay covers some of the more worn lawns, and students line up on the porch of one house, cash in hand, ready to purchase a green and white t-shirt.

Now, were I new to Oxford and Miami University I would think that the Miamians are jumping on the Michigan State bandwagon as the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament is starting up. Instead, I am firmly aware that this yard work and green and white t-shirts have nothing to do with March Madness or a nice spring day. Green Beer Day is a few hours away and students are eagerly awaiting the start to their debauchery.

Green Beer Day is a Miami University tradition that has students wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning to drink, have breakfast, and continue drinking for the rest of the day. Always the Thursday before spring break, Green Beer Day is a long standing tradition here at Miami. The students are enamored with the tradition and want nothing more but to engage in the holiday.

The entire town of Oxford is fixated on the tradition. Local bars have been gearing up for the holiday at the start of the spring semester. Walmart and Kroger have ‘Green Beer Day’ cakes and goodies in their respective bakeries. Bagel and Deli, the local late night drunk food location, has been selling the green and white Green Beer Day shirts for the last two weeks. The entire University community is aware of the impending holiday and the implications that come with it. Student affairs educators and the rest of the University community do their best to provide alternatives to the drinking holiday and educate students on healthy practices. Yet, the tradition goes on.

Holidays like Green Beer Day are a part of the greater collegiate culture. Michigan State had their NCAA tournament debauchery occur after any loss (or win) with couch burnings and (more recently) bagel throwing. Ohio University has ‘fest-season.’ I could pick any institution of higher learning and find a similar event that leads to unnecessary and unsafe binge drinking.

But why? For years colleges have faced this problem. They have implemented countless educational measures and policy changes to combat the problem. Yet the problem persists. I cannot help but think that nothing will soon change unless our laws and culture around alcohol change. But that is a larger societal issue, and one that no college will be able to face alone.