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OPINION: Mountaineer drinking culture continues to grow


The Daily Athenaeum

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It’s no secret that West Virginia University students love to have a good time.

Throughout both semesters, Friday and Saturday nights in Morgantown mean that the streets are filled with students partying or otherwise socializing. Tailgating on football gamedays is also a Mountaineer tradition, with students and alumni alike sharing food and drink with one another before WVU football games.

Partying (which is often accompanied by drinking) is fine in moderation, but how much is too much?

The Mountaineer Troy Clemons was arrested on Oct. 27th for DUI, or driving under the influence.

Clemons represents the University as a public figure, and his arrest made national news. Among other outlets, NBC Sports, Yahoo Sports and CBS Sports reported on the story. These kinds of stories only help to perpetuate negative stereotypes about WVU, its students and Morgantown itself.

The CBS Sports story, written by Tom Fornelli, even included this:

“If you were to ask me which college football mascot I thought would be the one to get nailed for a DUI, I would go with Oklahoma State’s Pistol Pete…Not too far behind Pete would be West Virginia’s Mountaineer, just because drinking seems like something you would do while living in the mountains. And, oh hey, guess what happened.”

Comments like those only speak to how much of the country sees WVU as a “party school.” The Princeton Review’s ranking of “party schools” has seen WVU top the rankings three times since 1993, and the Mountaineers consistently rank within the top five. For 2017, WVU came in second place, only to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

These sorts of rankings do a disservice to some of the great work that goes on at WVU and in Morgantown.

WVU has several Rhodes, Truman and Goldwater scholars. Several of its colleges rank among the top 100 in their respective disciplines. WVU students are also dedicated to philanthropy, logging more than 10,000 hours of public service in the spring semester of 2016 alone.

While WVU has a plethora of positive attributes and accolades, the fact remains that the school’s public image is often centered around its students’ drinking habits. Unfortunately, that image and that perception is not totally unwarranted.

WVU’s drinking and party culture was ultimately blamed for the death of Nolan Burch in 2014. Burch was a freshman attempting to rush at a fraternity, and died after drinking a heavy amount of alcohol. Police determined that Burch’s blood alcohol level was more than six times the legal limit at the time of his death.

The University took steps to regulate Greek life after Burch’s death, which was a measured and intelligent decision. However, nothing concrete was done to address the issue of alcohol abuse on campus.

Bernadine Kwan, a junior, believes that Clemons’ arrest is emblematic of a larger problem on campus.

“I think his arrest is a symbol of a wider campus drinking problem,” said the psychology student from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. “Binge drinking is a major problem here, but our reputation as a party school furthers this culture.”

The death of Nolan Burch and the arrest of Troy Clemons are incidents that should make WVU, its students and those who support the school take notice. Heavy drinking, especially by minors or those who are operating machinery, is a serious issue that we face as a University and as a community.

Troy Clemons will be reinstated as the Mountaineer for WVU’s football game at Kansas State. If the school wants to send students and other concerned individuals a message as to where they stand on the drinking culture, they should rethink this decision.

Clemons put his life and the lives of others in danger when he decided to drive under the influence, and he should live with the consequences of that decision.

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