The Arizona Desert Lamp

FTC won’t let me drink pee

Posted in Campus, Culture by Evan Lisull on 25 August 2009

The only thing worse than being on the ASUA beat is being on the Bud Light beat, but the fact that the federal government is involved in the Fan Can Affair bears a follow-up post. The story [$], from the Journal:

A Federal Trade Commission attorney criticized a controversial Anheuser-Busch InBev NV marketing campaign that features Bud Light cans decorated with college-team colors, urging the brewer to drop any plans for similar promotions.

Janet Evans, a senior FTC attorney who oversees alcohol advertising, says the federal agency has “grave concern” that the campaign could encourage underage and binge drinking on college campuses. Dozens of schools have protested the promotion, with some threatening legal action over trademark issues.

“This does not appear to be responsible activity,” Ms. Evans said in an interview Monday. “We’re looking at this closely. We’ve talked to the company and expressed our concerns.”

In reverse:

1. Is the state of trade so comfortable at this juncture that the FTC has time to concern itself with the advertising campaigns of beer cans?

2. How much “responsibility” does Anheuser-Busch owe to the federal government? Should all advertising campaigns in the future be cleared in advance by Ms. Evans?

3. Do you mean to suggest that underage and binge drinking at universities could be “encouraged” to any greater degree than they are currently, due in no small part to current standing highway funding regulations?

4. If such ties encourage drinking, does the FTC plan to crack down on the shot glasses, martini glasses, shakers, and other “drug paraphernalia” that is presently marketed by the universities protesting these cans?

5. How can you possibly possess the authority to tell companies what colors they can and cannot use for their products? Do you mean to suggest that other institutions with “colors” can restrict the unauthorized sale of products with similar colors in a certain area? If so, how far does this range extend? Can blue-red cans be sold in Phoenix? Mesa? Oro Valley?

6. Seeing how you represent a division of the central government of the United States of America, what do you plan to do about the alcoholic products that knowingly use patriotic imagery to encourage underage, impressionable Americans to break the law?

Actually looking at the cans helps to illustrate the absurdity of the argument:

Fan Cans

Now, look, I guess a UConn or LSU fan could get inspired by this. Maybe. It really does tie the whole tailgate decor together. Yet it’s rather dubious to draw the conclusion that such a can gives the impression that universities are encouraging drinking. Many Arizona fans wear colored t-shirts that read, “ASU Sucks,” but no one actually draws the conclusion that, “‘ASU sucks’ must be the official position of the university. If it weren’t, why would the message be emblazoned with the school’s colors.”

Yet even if Anheuser-Busch went so far as to slap on a block “A” and a picture of Wilbur shotgunning a beer, would this really encourage students who weren’t previously drinking to try? Are these students, whom university presidents cannot stop prizing as “the future,” rendered automatons by university colors?

According to most schools, yes:

Officials at the University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Boston College and New York’s Stony Brook University each said they are protesting the campaign. “It’s sending a message to students that maybe even the college is endorsing drinking,” said Jenny Hwang, an associate dean at Stony Brook.

Gosh, where would Stony Brook students get the idea that the college is actively encouraging drinking? Maybe, even, they are:

Stony Brook University’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, also known as “Wolfstock,” is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, October 17–18, and will offer alumni, students, faculty, staff, and the local community an opportunity to reconnect with each other and celebrate an institution on the rise–nationally and internationally. The event is presented in part by the Stony Brook Alumni Association, in cooperation with University Advancement, Student Affairs, Athletics, and the Office of the President.

. . .

Reunion Reception
7:00–9:00 pm
Charles B. Wang Center
Registration Fee: $35.00 per person (adults only). ) Includes dinner buffet, soft drinks, wine and beer, live music, and the University Expo

. . .

Beer Garden (Proper identification required)
For an additional $5 per person (with purchase of a buffet ticket), guests 21 and older are invited to the Beer Garden, generously sponsored by Clare Rose. Taste the newly-released Bud American Ale or try traditional favorites including Boddington’s English Crème Ale, Shock Top Belgian Style Wheat, or Murphy’s Irish Red Ale. (Note: Beer Garden tickets are not sold without the purchase of a Tailgate buffet ticket.)

. . .

University Café
Open 5:00 pm–11:00 pm
(Must be 21 yrs. and older)
Join your friends, fellow alums, and fans for a post-game (sure to be) celebration drink.
Free admission. Cash bar.

Even worse than that, Stony Brook gives amnesty to those dirty, rotten illegal drinkers:

Members of the Associated Student Government said NU has recently undergone efforts to evaluate its alcohol policy, specifically in regards to a medical amnesty program. ASG Student Life Director Matthew Bellassai said alcohol amnesty is an important measure to the NU student body.

“How everybody treated this topic – both ASG presidential candidates had it on their platform – so it’s obviously a big issue students care about,” the Weinberg freshman said.

Though Stony Brook does not have an official alcohol amnesty policy, people who call emergency services don’t get into trouble with the university. Students who receive medical treatment will talk to an adviser, but there will be no impact on their academic career, Hwang said.

Dean Hwang would no doubt protest, but providing this safety net of services implicitly encourages drinking. Is it so hard for a university figure to say, “Drinking is a really enjoyable activity, insofar as you don’t do it to excess”?

Like many “stands,” this amounts to little more than posturing from administrators who want to look “tough on crime,” even as underage drinking continues unabated. This in of itself is not a bad thing – the vast majority of underage drinkers are able to drink responsibility, in spite of the incentives from a federal level that encourage to do otherwise. Props go out to Louisiana State and Texas-Austin, the schools that refused to engage in such grandstanding.


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  1. […] will be hosting a “ZonaZoo Power Hour.” In light of recent posts here, I fail to see how such a program doesn’t encourage binge drinking to a greater degree […]

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