University of New Hampshire Dining announced Monday that it would halt the sale of energy drinks in its retail and vending machines in January as part of its mission to make UNH the healthiest campus by 2020, and to keep students safe from the dangers presented when mixing alcohol and caffeine.
Shortly after 8 p.m., though, President Mark Huddleston intervened – thankfully.
Huddleston cited conflicting evidence about the health effects of consuming the beverages, as well as student reactions in announcing his decision.
"I respect the efforts of the staff in UNH Dining to present the healthiest possible choices in our food service and vending locations," Huddleston said. "I want to be sure we respect our students' ability to make informed choices about what they consume."
Students can thank him for preventing a foolish move by Dining.
And he did it for the right reason. Students deserve the ability to make their own choices.
If UNH wants to be the healthiest campus, it needs to educate its students on the dangers of unhealthy eating and drinking habits – not just remove unhealthy beverages.
We're on board with the university's goal and would like to see it work. But the school was about to approach it the wrong way.
If the university wants to be the healthiest campus, it should help its students understand what it would take to get there.
Instead, it seems as if it was a combination of reaching a goal and overreacting to incidents of combining alcohol and caffeine.
"Just recently there was an incident on campus involving energy drinks that helped send a student to the hospital," David May, assistant vice president for Business Affairs, said before Huddleston's announcement.
We understand the dangers of combining alcohol and caffeine, and encourage students to better understand those dangers.
But removing energy drinks from UNH shelves because of that would be an overreaction.
May also said that the move was made to support the university's initiative to make UNH the healthiest campus in the nation.
In the first press release, which announced the move, UNH cited a survey which stated that energy drinks could contain 300 times as much caffeine as soft drinks.
True. But UNH doesn't sell any energy drinks that contain that amount of caffeine. Red Bull (around 100 mg of caffeine), Full Throttle (around 150 mg of caffeine), and NOS (around 250 mg of caffeine) contain slightly more caffeine than Coca-Cola (around 50 mg) and about the same amount as coffee (around 150 mg).
Red Bull echoed similar thoughts in a statement, calling UNH's prospective move "inappropriate and unwarranted."
Regardless of Huddleston's intervention, UNH Dining is sending mixed messages.
As they tried to tell students that energy drinks would be removed to ensure a healthier campus, they were finalizing the move-in of Dunkin' Donuts in to the MUB.
It's a hypocritical move.
We would have no problem with Dining bringing Dunkin' Donuts to UNH – if they're going to be consistent.
Right now, though, they're not.
Dining tried removing energy drinks from shelves to become a healthier campus. But they were ready to turn their heads the other way as Dunkin' Donuts and its 770-calorie tuna melt sandwich moves in.
There is a problem with that.
Huddleston did the right thing in delaying the move. We hope he continues to do so by shelving this hypocritical rule.