A mere few weeks ago on the holiest 24 hours of the academic year (Green Beer Day, in case you needed clarification), I joined a group of green-dyed, shamrock-clad 20-somethings in a mass exodus down a back alley, strolling quite leisurely to the nearest OPD-free party, a task that required nothing more than checking a file saved in my phone under the name “Green Beer Day Party Schedule.”
While pretending to be en route to my French 201 class, I witnessed an all too familiar scene involving a middle-aged man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and an underage boy with an unfortunate case of baby-face and a can of Natural Light; man sees boy, boy looks at every individual blade of grass while hustling away, man asks boy for his ID, boy immediately begins to mentally envision the impending phone call to his parents.
The funniest thing about this story is not the look on the kid’s face when the badge came out and the cuffs went on, but rather the fact that I saw that same exact boy later that evening. He was 1) drunk, 2) still 18 years old, 3) still baby-faced and 4) entirely unconcerned with his earlier arrest, as well as with the potential to be arrested again.
A week or two before this incident, a friend of mine called me to ask if the restaurant I work at is hiring, and when I asked him why he told me he had been cited for underage drinking and needed a way to pay for the citation expenses and potential legal fees.
Though I was already fully aware that underage drinking charges did not tend to result in a total behavior overhaul, it was at this point I learned that underage drinking charges are usually not met with an orange jumpsuit, but rather met with a court date and a real hefty fine–a fine that, according to The Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control, can end up totalling $1,000, excluding legal fees.
To those reading this who are either much luckier, more financially responsible or older than I am, $1,000 probably does not seem like the end of the universe – which is understandable. However, to illustrate what a $1,000 loss means to most 20-somethings, asking me to pay you a grand is the equivalent of me cutting off your legs and asking you to run a marathon 20 minutes later.
Now that it has been established that underage drinking can potentially be very expensive, I would like to ask a favor of my readers – think back to a time where you or someone you know said, “I am not going to get drunk and go out tonight because I am afraid of being caught.”
I’m sure if one were to look hard enough, they would find someone who could genuinely answer “yes” to that proposed circumstance – however, I am not really focused on those people, because the people who aren’t going to go out one weekend because they heard the cop presence was going to be heavy do not represent the bulk of our student population.
The act of handing out thousands of dollars worth of underage drinking citations itself is not particularly aggravating; at the end of the day, I am still drinking a MadTree Red IPA right now and that’s still illegal.
The infuriating part of this situation is much deeper and much more multifaceted than simply “broke college kids who can’t/don’t want to pay to play.” The infuriating part lies within the fact that the student body is consistently scrutinized by the media for our drinking habits and drinking culture, yet instead of OPD, City of Oxford and the University actually working to provide solid, enjoyable alternatives to partying they simply hand out fines and court dates and turn the other cheek.
Part of this issue seems to be a result of the overall reluctance to accept that Miami, in addition to being a lot of other things, is a party school; our student body is predominantly white, affluent, and our school is located in the middle of classic Ohio corn fields.
While I do not personally think there is any shame in being a “party school,” the failure of the authorities and the administration to offer alternatives to partying that fit their student body is a direct result of this aforementioned reluctance; the kid who would otherwise have passed out drunk wearing nothing but their shoes is not going to choose free skate at Goggin over a night out Uptown, and it is time the university accepts that.
Regardless of whether or not you personally believe the drinking culture here needs to change, the administration and authorities’ decision to take the financially appealing route of going after underage drinking by handing out tickets, filling quotas and calling it a day does nothing to change the drinking culture at Miami.
Rather, this decision leaves our phenomenal student body and school in a position where we are portrayed poorly and unfairly by the media for behavior that, all-in-all, is pretty typical state-school behavior. Miami is a rigorous, reputable institution of higher education. It also happens to be a pretty substantial party school. While I am not sure of the exact ways in which to effectively address the drinking culture at Miami, I do know that handing out citations and denying Miami’s status as a party school is not the way to do it.