April 24 is a familiar date to the Princeton drinker. Inspired by the putative Paul Newman quote, "24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not," Newman's Day revelers attempt to drink two dozen beers in as many hours, ideally without vomiting, falling asleep or modifying their daily schedules.
But the University believes this year's festivities may be more reserved than in the past.
Newman's Day, observed as early as the 1970s at Bates College, was adopted by University students at an indeterminate time, allegedly following a speech given on campus by the actor that included the inspiring quote.
In past years, Princeton's celebration of Newman's Day has witnessed the usual hangovers, McCosh Health Center visits and other lingering effects of inebriation. In 2003, five students required medical attention for excessive alcohol consumption. A year later, 400 T-shirts promoting the event, which were meant for sale to University students, were confiscated from a Butler dormitory on the eve of Newman's Day. The day passed in relative sobriety in other years.
"Last year was very quiet; we only had one issue that day, which was an open container at a party," Public Safety deputy director Charles Davall said, noting that "when Newman's day first started out, we saw a trend of more alcohol transport violations."
"We are aware of Newman's day," Davall said, but he stressed that Public Safety is always prepared. "We are not specifically increasing staff because we're always heavily staffed on Tuesdays."
University Health Services, like Public Safety, will not be adding supplementary staff or taking preventative measures against Newman's Day-related intoxication. The threat of a potential influx of drunken students has been deemed unlikely.
"We are going to prepare as we would for any day that we are open to meet the medical and psychological needs of our students," University Health Services director Daniel Silverman said in an email.
University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt '96 emphasized that McCosh is experienced in handling student health problems, alcohol-related or otherwise. "University Health Services is in a constant state of readiness, year-round, to handle health emergencies," she said. "University Health Services is always prepared."
Newman's Day has been criticized for its identification with Paul Newman, who has denied his connection to the tradition's founding quote on multiple occasions. The alcohol-centric nature of Newman's Day is especially fraught with controversy since the actor's son died of a drug overdose in 1978 at the age of 28. His death inspired the creation of the Scott Newman Center for Drug Abuse Prevention.
"The University feels that students should stop referring to the event as Newman's Day," Cliatt said, "because Mr. Newman has formally requested that his name be dissociated from this event."
While some students will undoubtedly carry on the debauched tradition of Newman's Day, the University sees a downward trend in dedicated participants.
"It's hard to generalize, but the number of acutely intoxicated students on Newman's Day seems to have lessened," Silverman said, "in response to various efforts on the part of student groups to advocate 'Live Smart' approaches to responsible drinking."
"It was quiet last year, and I would say that I hope the trend continues this year."