Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We Were Cheated. We Should Have Been #1.

Today the CDT ran the story about Penn State's status as the number two party school in the nation. Coincidentally, it was written by Anne Danahy who also wrote the puff piece on entrepreneurship from 2004. The article reports on Penn State flack Bill Mahon's take on the ranking.
...[W]ith the amount of marketing of alcohol, he is surprised the university isn't number one. He said 353 Penn State students were taken to the emergency room for alcohol overdoses last year.

"There are 90 bottle shops, beer distributors, bars, state (liquor) stores and restaurants that sell alcohol within a five mile radius of Old Main. Our students don't stand a chance," Mahon said in an e-mail.

"We are not going to wave the white flag and give up, but it is a struggle every year to compete with the businesses in this community that aggressively promote alcohol consumption with our students," Mahon said.

Mahon is co-chair of the Town-Gown Partnership United Against Dangerous Drinking. This partnership is the latest in a long running effort by Penn State to fight alcohol abuse by its students. The above response is canned as you can see from this passage from Penn State Live, PSU's propaganda portal.
Last year 353 Penn State students were taken to the Mount Nittany Medical Center in State College with an alcohol overdose. University officials hope not to see a repeat of that high statistic in the new school year.[...]

"Within five miles of Old Main there are about 90 bottle shops, bars, State Stores, beer distributors and restaurants that sell alcohol," Mahon said. "The alcohol culture is a big part of this small town."
Penn State deserves credit for admitting that there is a problem and taking positive steps to end some of the most public of Penn State's bacchanalia. Sometime during the Bryce Jordan presidency the University eliminated Gentile Thursday a rock festival which took place yearly on a Thursday in April on the HUB lawn while classes were still in session. Shortly there after, it dropped the Phi Psi 500 an annual foot race which involved running form bar to bar and chugging a drink at each.

Penn State's return to the top ten party schools coincides with its first successful football season in years. I don't think that this was a random occurrence, since football is the single largest contributor to the alcohol culture at Penn State. While Gentile Thursday and the Phi Psi 500 could be eliminated, football is too well integrated into both the culture and economy of Penn State and the Centre region to be dropped. Those 90 bottle shops and bars are not just here to satisfy student demand. They are here because on five or six Saturdays each fall 100,000+ people cram there way into Happy Valley to watch Penn State football and they demand adult beverages. Mahon certainly is aware of this or should be. In
the intimidating op-ed piece he wrote for the CDT he states,

Two-hundred-eighty million dollars [of the Penn State budget] is associated with self-supporting budgets such as housing, food services, athletics, the Bryce Jordan Center, conferences and the Nittany Lion Inn. Cutting that just means fewer jobs and less tourism in the region, not to mention less material available to fill the CDT sports pages.
Let me connect the dots for Mahon. Cutting the athletic budget means less tourism which means fewer bars and bottle shops. Fewer bars and bottle shops mean less temptations for students to drink. Fewer temptations means less drinking.

Until Penn State acknowledges that football culture and alcohol culture go hand-in-hand the problem will go unsolved.

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