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Is UMass really ZooMass?

The UMass Minuteman mascot.

Photo by Jason Szenes/Getty Images

The UMass Minuteman mascot.

Newsflash: College students have been known to drink beer. UMass Amherst is no exception, but is it really deserving of that “ZooMass” nickname?

It’s increasingly known more for its academics than for its, ahem, extracurriculars; the average SAT and GPA of entering freshmen has risen almost every year of the last 10. And administrators have been trying all manner of strategies to control drinking, from strictly enforcing the law to handing out tipsheets on how to party safely. (Memo to 100-pound sorority girls: “Eat before you go out.”) UMass didn’t even crack the top-20 list of party schools in last year’s Princeton Review (the only New England school on the list? University of Maine-Orono).

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It’s hard to pin down the origins of “ZooMass,” but Bryan Harvey, an alum who’s now an associate provost, figures it got started in the mid-’70s. He remembers that decade “through a haze,” and no wonder: The drinking age was 18, and the campus was “the only thing for miles around.”

A few recent incidents haven’t helped the school shed the label, like campus outbursts after Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and after the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl last year. But ZooMass? Sorry, that’s a stretch. With its quiet floors, maybe it’s ShhhMass.

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