University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston set his sights on making his campus the nation’s healthiest by 2020. An admirable goal, no one would argue that, and in hopes of moving his plan forward, the university banned the sale of nonalcoholic energy drinks on campus four days ago. That plan, first delayed, is now officially dead: Apparently, Huddleston didn’t take into consideration the popularity of the energy drinks on campus or the fact that students could buy them just about anywhere else. D’oh!
But why did the UNH backtrack on its ban? According to reports, there’s more to the story than the outcry of students looking for an afternoon pick-me-up. The reality is that university is so intrinsically involved with the beverages’ promotion on their own campus. "We have so many Red Bull-sponsored events," said sophomore Corrin Murphy, who keeps a 24-pack of Red Bull in her room and said she frequently sees fliers advertising campus events sponsored by Red Bull. Just last fall, a Red Bull student "brand manager" at UNH organized a skateboarding competition, with a case of Red Bull given to winners in several categories. Red Bull even took part in UNH’s homecoming where they had skydivers drop into the football stadium and give away multiple prizes.
In its initial news release announcing the sales ban, UNH echoed health experts who have raised concerns that the caffeine in energy drinks can mask one's perception of intoxication if mixed with alcohol. So what happened? Does the university have a conflict of interests or did the faculty question whether the ban would even make a difference since students can buy the energy drinks off campus?