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Editorial: Dining's hypocritical move

Thankfully, President Huddleston delayed irrational energy drink rule

Published: Monday, September 26, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 00:09

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.

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'10 Grad
Tue Oct 4 2011 09:12
This is not the first time UNH Dining has taken away student's choices in the name of "being healthy." 3 years ago, they removed whole milk from the dining halls and told all the students "it's unhealthy, so you can't have it," while the soda machines (complete with Vault energy drinks, I might add) remained. I totally understand it from a budget standpoint- whole milk is consumed less, so it probably was not cost effective to keep it. But they just told students that we were not capable of making healthy enough choices when it came to which milk to put in our cereal.
Then they did it again 2 years ago with the salt shakers. Again, they told students that "salt is bad" so you can't have it at your tables anymore. I'd be willing to bet that this move was financial as well - how many students do you know who steal from the dining halls? But, again, rather than treating us like adults, the message was just sent that we are too irresponsible to make healthy enough choices when it comes to salt on our food.

Now go have another helping of the unlimited pizza and ice cream...

Kalle Blomkvist
Wed Sep 28 2011 12:19

"I am in food service sales." What does that mean ��� you're a food buyer for supermarket, a cashier or a person that buys groceries? Are you intimately familiar with UNH's profit margins and the price they buy the drinks at? Are you speaking specifically or in generalities?

Wed Sep 28 2011 05:50
They sell 60,000 energy drinks per year. I am in food service sales and the typical profit margin on the single serve energy drinks is anywhere from $1.15 to $1.65
Kalle Blomkvist
Tue Sep 27 2011 20:23

Where did you get the number $90,000 in profits from energy drinks? I have not seen that reported anywhere?

Tue Sep 27 2011 15:35
I am a UNH student student and 'small government' activist. I believe that we go to college to learn how to make decisions. A big part of the reason why today's decision makers are so bad in Washington, is that we as a country have been getting away from personal responsibility and having to deal consequences for quite a while now. This is just a continuation. Not to mention the $90,000 that UNH profits from energy drink sales every year will certainly made up in next years tuition.

I went into far more depth on my limited government blog, which will be discussed in tomorrow union leader article.



Non sequitur
Tue Sep 27 2011 11:36
I think TNH should have just stuck with the "Students should have been in on the decision" argument.

Going from "UNH wants to stop selling energy drinks because students use them in combination with alcohol" to "Dunkin' Donuts is unhealthy too!" is a real leap in logic to me.

Tue Sep 27 2011 07:06
You might what to rethink using the word "slightly" when making 2:1, 3:1 and 5:1 comparisons. It's not functionally correct and makes your article appear sloppily written.

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