DURHAM — Beat the clock, kick the keg, knotty trivia, wheel o'deals. If you're a UNH student over 21, your Facebook inbox has probably seen these messages from the four bars on Main Street, advertising daily drinking specials that sound more like games. While the catchy titles and low drink prices do their job in attracting customers, some, such as Durham Police Chief Dave Kurz, are concerned that students are drinking more than ever. "Three years ago, the drink special at every bar was three dollars, for a beer or a well drink," said Ryan Wambolt, owner of The Knot Irish Pub... Wambolt has owned The Knot for the last six years and said that the daily drink specials are a recent trend... Joanne Stella, Legal Services Attorney at UNH, acknowledged a recent trend of hard alcohol consumption, calling it dangerous. In the past, she said the university has seen similar cycles with other risky "fads" such as students at fraternities purposely drinking to the point of throwing up... Kurz has a sense that students' interest in getting "hammered" is becoming the norm over more casual drinking, and the students he speaks with seem to share his opinion. "When I say this to students, I can see nods in agreement as if they have the same understanding," Kurz said in an email. "Routinely we encounter highly intoxicated folks, but the incidents seem higher than past years. More calls for ambulances for 'ETOH,' the code for alcohol poisoning, only serve to affirm my hunch." "I agree," said UNH Police Chief Paul Dean. "We are seeing more intoxicated people and more use of prescription drug abuse with alcohol. They are all good people who are making poor choices." "The difference now is that everyone is getting drunk earlier," Wambolt said. "All the bar specials pretty much end at 11 [p.m.], so people are milling around Main Street because it's too early to go home."
A few days ago, Fosters ran this article (click the link for the entire, uncut piece) and I just wanted to post some of my reactions to it. First of all, no, UNH does not have a drinking problem, it's just a college town in New Hampshire. I don't have any hard facts in front of me, but I would like to offer a few opinions to this piece. First of all, this article only speaks of the bar scene in Durham. Not too long ago, but before our seniors were enrolled, UNH was considered one of the top party schools in the country. Then, with a combined effort of the UNH administration, housing, residential life, and the UNH and Durham PD, UNH parties became less and less of a problem for the authorities. Now, there are still awesome parties any given Thursday through Saturday night at UNH, but it is not what it used to be. Around the same time UNH began cracking down on parties (about 6 years ago) the bar scene started offering more specials and the 21+ crowds began flocking downtown on party nights. The bars are open until 1AM and it's completely legal partying. Scorps and Libby's have dance floors and you don't have to worry about "accidentally" hooking up with a freshman. Sure, the bar crowds are on the rise, but the party scene is on the decline.
Secondly, this is not a problem limited to UNH. I read my dad part of the article and he cut me off saying, "UNH doesn't have a drinking problem. College has a drinking problem." He's right. I may not call it a problem, but this isn't some significant event only occurring at UNH, but at universities across the country. Heck, I believe the University of Wisconsin has something like two bars in it's student center. What do you think kids do at colleges in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest? At least we have the beaches, mountains and lakes nearby and some decent off campus places like downtown Portsmouth and even Boston isn't too far away.
Also, I wouldn't call "hard alcohol" a fad. Personally, I buy hard alcohol because $20 of it lasts much longer than $20 worth of beer. And I like whiskey. On that topic, if fraternities were "purposely drinking until the point of throwing up," I believe that is called hazing because no one in their right mind would actually want to do that. That is not a cool, hip "fad" that is the upperclassmen being pricks to the pledges.
Another thing that strikes me as odd is that the bar owners and police admit to having to call more ambulances for alcohol poisoning than in years past. But with an increased bar population, wouldn't that be expected? The more people you have drinking, the greater chance that someone will need help. I have no idea if these two numbers are proportional or not, but it does at least raise the question. Also, I think people have become more aware of the dangers of alcohol as of late and are more likely to call for help, especially in a public area, as opposed to the privacy of your dorm, house or apartment. Calling an ambulance isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially if it really is needed. Many people get away with puking all night and passing out in the bathroom, but many of those occasions would also be suitable for an ambulance ride.
In short, I don't think that UNH has a new drinking problem. For decades binge drinking has been commonplace at colleges, but it is just becoming more visible. Honestly, things have probably settled down in recent years, but the crowds are moving from apartments to the bars downtown where there is more supervision (in the form of police, bouncers and bartenders) to crack down.
Stay classy, not UMassy.