OU’s party culture sees changes during the McDavis years

Megan Henry / Asst. News Editor

Ohio University was one of the top five party schools in the country according to The Princeton Review when OU President Roderick McDavis started his time in Cutler Hall, and OU became the top party school during the middle of his presidency.

Since securing the top spot, OU has been slipping in the party school rankings, and what once was the top party school in the country did not even crack the The Princeton Review’s most recent party school rankings. OU is not absent from all party school rankings, however, as Playboy named OU the top party school for 2015.

“A hallmark of President McDavis’ legacy has been altering the high-risk drinking culture at Ohio University.” Dan Pittman, OU Spokesman

Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said he has noticed a difference in the party culture during McDavis’ time as OU’s president.

"Certainly the fests reflect in my mind a significant change in party culture,” Pyle said. “Noise complaints are down so I think our enforcement in that regard has had an impact."

Although arrests during fests have also been decreasing in recent years, they have fluctuated up and down throughout McDavis’ presidency. Nine students were arrested during 2005’s Palmer Fest, 74 people were arrested during Palmer Fest in 2009 and 14 people were arrested during 2016’s Palmer Fest, which does not include arrests from the Ohio Investigative Unit.

Matt Pruetz, a senior studying management information systems, said fest season helps make OU a party school.

“Not a lot of other schools do that,” Pruetz said. “If they do have (fests), it's usually one time, not a whole season."

Recent fests haven’t seen the fires that had previously been a reoccurring event at Palmer Fest during McDavis’ presidency. The fest ended in flames in 2012 because of a basement fire at one of the houses, and it was later declared a riot by then-Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl. The fire, which was later deemed to be arson, broke out at about 7 p.m. In 2010, partygoers set a couch on fire after 11 p.m. during Palmer Fest.

In addition to fewer arrests, parties during fest season have been shutting down earlier in recent years as well. During 2016’s fest season, most parties during Palmer Fest were shut down by 5:30 p.m.

The Ohio University Police Department has also noticed a difference during McDavis’ presidency, OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said.

“I think that we have seen less of a party atmosphere,” Ryan said.

Arrests for Halloween have also been down lately. During McDavis’ first Halloween in 2004, police arrested 98 people. Arrests rose for 2005’s Halloween to nearly 150. In 2010, there were 181 arrests, and in 2011, there were 148 arrests, which officials described as "quiet" compared to previous years. APD arrested 35 people during the 2016 Halloween block party, OUPD issued 69 citations and the Ohio Department of Public Safety Investigation Unit charged approximately 50 people.

Pyle said there were too many factors in play to pinpoint one aspect that has changed the party culture at OU.

“It was a concentrated effort to try to impact the culture of partying and drinking,” Pyle said.

Pruetz said he has noticed a difference in the party culture during his time at OU.

"When I was younger ... it was more house party based a lot,” Pruetz said. “I remember going to parties during the weekdays. Now it's definitely bar central.”

Anna McCall, a freshman studying special education, said she thinks OU’s party school reputation is “way overrated.”

“I've been to other colleges around and it's no different there," McCall said.

She said she thinks university officials are trying to change OU’s reputation as a party school.

“It seems like they'll be cracking down here on that and just trying to get rid of the party school reputation," McCall said.

All incoming OU students are required to complete AlcoholEdu, an online alcohol education course. Since 2005, It has been mandated for first-year students and transfer students with fewer than 30 credit hours, Pittman said.

AlcoholEdu cost the Division of Student Affairs $45,000 for the 2015-16 academic year, Pittman said.

Nearly 55 percent of OU students identified as moderate drinkers, about 16 percent identified as non-drinkers and nearly 13 percent identified as abstainers, according to the Fall 2016 Healthy Campus Survey. The survey, which started fall 2015, is a tool used by the university to monitor student alcohol consumption.

A moderate drinker is categorized as one to four drinks for males and one to three drinks for females, a nondrinker is zero drinks in the past two weeks and an abstainer has not had a drink in the past year.

About 10 percent of students identified as heavy episodic drinkers, and about 7 percent  identified as problematic drinkers, according to the Fall 2016 Healthy Campus Survey.

A heavy episodic drinker is categorized as consuming five to nine drinks for males and four to seven drinks for females, and a problematic drinker is categorized as consuming 10 or more drinks for males and eight or more drinks for females.  

Dusty Moell, a freshman studying business, said OU’s reputation as a party school is overhyped.

"You hear OU, people are automatically like 'oh, it's a party school,' but you can really find parties anywhere," Moell said.

He said he first learned about OU’s party school reputation during his junior year of high school after hearing about Halloween.

"I think it helps that other schools have picked up the slack,” Moell said. “Maybe it hasn't decreased as much here as it has increased other places as well.”

Development by: Taylor Johnston / For The Post

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