Top Party Schools Vow To Combat Binge Drinking, Then Sell Branded Shot Glasses

Syracuse University, like the University of Iowa before it, is vowing to combat student binge drinking after being named the Princeton Review's top party school in the nation.

One step Syracuse has already taken is to complain to nearby property managers about Castle Court, an apartment parking lot where students traditionally gather to drink. Earlier this summer, the complaints led the private company to ban parties in Castle Court, much to the chagrin of students.

But while they've lost a hangout spot, 'Cuse undergraduates can still have their branded beer pong tables and ping-pong balls. And they can pound double shots from glasses branded with Syracuse's Otto the Orange -- a result of the university making a trademark agreement with companies that manufacture those glasses.

Meanwhile, Iowa may have slipped to the No. 2 party school this year, but it's still one of nearly two dozen universities taking heat from Vocativ writer Adam K. Raymond for licensing its image to Jell-O for small molds about the size of jello shots. (And let's be clear, students are definitely using the molds for jello shots.)

In short, both Syracuse and Iowa are pushing the message that they're cracking down on out-of-control partying, while also collecting money off drinking paraphernalia branded with their schools' names.

When the University of Iowa was named the nation's top party school in 2013, it was quick to note its efforts to combat dangerous drinking among its students. For instance, the school required all first-year students to take a course on alcohol that encouraged them to make "small changes to reduce negative consequences." One example: "avoiding drinking games."

But like Syracuse and many other schools, Iowa has also allowed the use of its trademarked logo for ping-pong balls -- a piece of sports equipment more often associated with drinking games than table tennis among undergrads.

Although UI President Sally Mason publicly fretted about a student blowing a .341 BAC last year at a home football game, the university still sells Hawkeye shot glasses in its campus bookstore, including one marketed as a "Gameday shot glass."

When reached for comment, UI spokesman Joe Brennan declined to speculate on whether the school might be contributing to on-campus drinking culture with such products.

"It's not at all clear that there is a link between collegiate licensed products and heavy drinking by college students," said Brennan. "While it may be an interesting point of conversation, it’s probably not the most fruitful place to look if we want to find answers to the problem."

According to data presented by the school, the percentage of UI students using alcohol on at least 10 of the 30 days preceding an annual health survey fell from 36.4 percent in 2009 to 25 percent in 2014 -- though that's still significantly higher than the 2013 national average of 14 percent.

The percentage of Iowa students engaging in "high risk drinking" (defined as five or more drinks in one sitting) at least once in the two weeks preceding the survey fell from 70.3 percent in 2009 to 54.1 percent this year. But again, that's notably higher than the 2013 national average of 29 percent.

UI attributes its success in combating heavy drinking to campus-community partnerships, as well as its record of working with high schools to educate students before they get to campus and offering late-night programming where students can socialize without alcohol.

Iowa officials also noted that the top rated "stone-cold sober" school, Mormon-owned Brigham Young University, licenses its own logo for ping-pong balls as well. It's safe to say those likely end up in far fewer cups of beer than any competing college pong ball.

UI has been here before, having taken heat in 2012 for allowing Anheuser-Busch to use the school's logo in beer advertisements. That controversy came after UI claimed in 2009 that Bud Light "fan cans" featuring the school's colors were undermining efforts by the university to address alcohol abuse.

The same has been said of UI's in-state rival, Iowa State University, which has also licensed its image for ping-pong balls, ping-pong tables and shot glasses, all while decrying Bud Light cans sporting ISU's colors.

ISU recently canceled a popular and nearly century-old annual event called VEISHEA, due to intoxicated students repeatedly seeming to take the event as a cue to riot.

ISU is not part of the Jell-O mold program. "If we were approached for licensing, there would be careful considerations that would need to be made, particularly since [Jell-O] is an ingestible product (and with that comes greater risk and even more assessment)," school spokeswoman Annette Hacker told HuffPost in an email.

Syracuse did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.