A researcher walks into a bar…

Posted in Weekly Newsletter on by .

barUntil we heard about the University of Wisconsin’s Director of Community Relations saying Madison would be a better place if the cops would quit enforcing laws against shoplifting, a/k/a retail theft, we thought we’d discovered the dumbest thing anyone would roll out in front of a hapless public this past week.

But somebody else found the story about shoplifter advocacy, so we’ll have to settle for runner-up. Once again, the university is involved.

A team of alert researchers undertook a study of student drinking habits (that is, alcohol consumption; we’re rigorously observing scientific precision here,) on the UW-Madison campus. Published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal, the study uncovered evidence that the likelihood of college students drinking may depend to a statistically significant degree on whether they can conveniently get hold of some booze.

The researchers—it took five of them—described their objective as follows:  “To describe how proximity and density of alcohol outlets are associated with any drinking and binge drinking in students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

By way of explaining their methodology, they noted that “Geographic information systems were used to calculate proximity and enumerate alcohol outlet densities.”  Our hunch is that “geographic information systems” might be a scientific name—sorry, term—for one of those Madison street maps tourists buy as souvenirs down on State Street.

They concluded that “Drinkers lived closer to alcohol outlets and had significantly more outlets available at a distance of up to 1 mile,” a finding that argues strongly for exploring a possible link between sobriety and laziness.

Indignation is hardly misplaced. We might not have the problems this study seeks to address, if the UW’s dead, white male founders hadn’t sited their campus in the midst of all those taverns and liquor stores.

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