Editorial: The culture of a party state

New Hampshire’s drinking is reflected by university students

By Editorial Staff
On September 27, 2013

The University of New Hampshire has long attempted to dismiss its reputation as a "party school," and for the most part, this attempt seems to be working. With only three bars on Main Street, strict policies regarding underage drinking and police officers present throughout campus and town, Durham and the university have gradually been changing the party and drinking culture of undergrads.

New Hampshire as a whole, however, is still a heavy-drinking state. Listed as the No. 2 state in the country for beer consumption per capita by the Beer Institute, residents 21 years and older reportedly consumed 43.9 gallons of beer last year.

As the largest university in the relatively small state, it seems fair to conclude that these statistics reflect average consumption amounts for UNH students as well. However, the majority of university students spend their time in college below the legal drinking age, meaning that these statistics do not take into account the thousands of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds living in Durham (and across the state). While it would be irresponsible to officially include these young adults in this data, it would be naïve and unreasonable to pretend that these students do not also consume copious amounts of beer and other alcohols.

Taking into consideration these thousands of unrecorded beer-drinkers, the consumption for the state - and thus the university - is certainly higher than reported. And no matter all of the rules and programs that the university implements - from educational substance abuse programs to a stricter conduct system to Medical Amnesty - drinking in college goes beyond just the campus. It is a statewide, national and societal issue.

And while this study only touches upon the extent of drinking in our culture and our state, it reinforces that drinking heavily in New Hampshire is not something of the past, as the university would like it to be. But if the majority of students (about 57 percent are in-state students) are growing up in a state where consuming large amounts of beer is common, that is a difficult mindset for an administration to change once students arrive in Durham. The university can only change the drinking culture to a certain extent; society has to step up at some point as well.

The university is on the right track to making significant changes, but will never be able to completely eliminate its party reputation, binge drinking and alcohol poisoning incidents. As long as statistics such as this one represent the state, Durham and its residents can only be expected to defy them so much; with the culture of a party state comes party schools.

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