OXFORD — The day-long party known as Green Beer Day (GBD) will be held on Thursday, March 16, in Oxford. With a recent student death and an increase in alcohol-related arrests, the Oxford Police Department (OPD) is stepping up enforcement in hopes of making the day pass without incident.
Green Beer Day actually started at Miami University in 1952 and is well known. Typically, it is celebrated annually on the Thursday before spring break. The day is recognizable by its green beer and green shirts which are sold prior to the day. Some professors cancel class, while other classes are held, but might be populated with drunk students. Some students will begin drinking as early as 1 a.m. and bars open at 5 a.m.
Many might wonder why the university and city are not putting a stop to the celebration, especially considering the rising alcohol climate, but Miami University is famously against the day. The university actually encourages instructors via email to hold class and remove students who arrive inebriated.
As for the city’s participation, Mayor Kate Rousmaniere spoke against criticisms regarding the city’s role in the day at the City Council meeting held on Tuesday, March 7.
Rousmaniere said she had received an email asking the city how they could allow a “shameless homage to binge drinking” considering the recent events.
In response, Mayor Rousmaniere said, “Why can’t the city stop it? The point is that the city is preempted by state legislature and regulation in regard to any bar or liquor establishment. The law in Ohio is that the Ohio State Liquor Control binds and shapes the law of liquor in municipalities. It is something that a lot of college towns in Ohio are very upset about.” She said many officials are trying to get in touch with the Ohio Liquor Board.
“And in fact, in late July, Oxford and Miami University are hosting the Ohio Town Gown Association conference, and the afternoon will be spent with visitors from the Ohio State Liquor Control Board, so we can talk about some of these issues, and changing things.”
The City of Oxford and Miami University cannot put a stop to GBD, but they can certainly work to help students make safe decisions. That is what they have chosen to do.
OPD Chief John Jones also spoke regarding preparations for GBD.
“While the impact of [GBD] has dwindled in the past few years, and incidents have decreased, we do not want to let our guard down. Our hope is that the day goes without incident,” he said.
Preparation for the day is ongoing and OPD is taking several steps to insure the incidents continue to decrease. Chief Jones has done numerous media and journalism student interviews — he hopes this will spread the message to avoid GBD. At least one sorority has requested OPD come to talk to them on Wednesday about risk management.
Jones also participated in the Peer HAWKS Educators Just Call/Good Samaritan Forum. A video of the forum has been posted online, so anyone can educate themselves about the Good Samaritan program. This policy simply states Miami University will not arrest or take disciplinary action for a violation of the drug or alcohol policies for those students who seek emergency medical assistance for themselves or others, thus creating a safe space for students to seek help if they are in trouble.
On Thursday, March 8, there was a Good Samaritan/Alcohol Poisoning training sponsored by Oxford’s Visitors Center and Chamber of Commerce, and Chief Jones attended and answered questions. The event was geared towards taxi drivers and uptown Oxford merchants.
The education efforts do not end the week before GBD, as a GBD forum was held on Monday, March 13, regarding Education Strategy.
For prevention on GBD, OPD has sought help from the Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) regarding plans for the day. OIU will have undercover agents in town on GBD and the OSHP will have troopers in town. According to Chief Jones, “Troopers will be working hard to prevent and deter drunk driving.”
There will also be Butler County Sheriff’s Office deputies and other agencies in town.
OPD and MUPD officers will be working overtime and will partner on patrols. This will include walking and vehicle patrols. House parties will be addressed early and often to deter high risk consumption, according to Jones.
Other organizations are also working to make the day as safe as possible. Student groups are planning small efforts, such as handing out water bottles and food. The Office of Student Wellness will be selling pancakes uptown in the park. Butler County Safe Communities will be handing out “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” coasters at local bars.
There are more organizations and groups working to prevent drunk driving and encourage safe drinking behaviors in town. While the university and city cannot prevent GBD, they plan to work together to make it safer.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH