When Universities Act Like Corporations, Politicians and Whores


The Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) passed a resolution on 1/28/16 that supported the sale of alcohol at campus athletic events. The story was reported on the cover of the Daily Targum the next day. The resolution does not immediately allow for the sale of alcohol at athletic events – this is something that needs to be discussed and approved by the athletic department, President Barchi, the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees (I believe that the Rutgers Police Department has a vested interest as well).

RUSA stated that this would be a new source of revenue and that some of it should be directed at other campus programs, including the Counseling Center (an underfunded part of Rutgers Health Services that I worked at for 5 years). It’s a proposal that is not specific about the percentage of money that would go to campus programs, nor how many years that allocation should last. It’s an old trick. When a politician wants to pass a controversial measure, he will say that part of the revenue will go to support some underfunded venture that will benefit the public. This has happened with tobacco and the lottery in many states. It also happened quite famously with the casinos in NJ in the early 70’s – they were approved by voters only after the NJ citizens were promised that some casino revenue would go to fix NJ infrastructure and support public schools. It didn’t happen, and casino revenue eventually became an expected part of the government’s revenue stream and was cut up and applied to wherever those in power wanted it to go. This will happen if alcohol sales on campus become a reality. It will not go to the programs that are proposed.

Alcohol sales at college sporting events has been a topic that has appeared a few times in the news over the last couple of years. There was a quality article in the New York Times last fall which discussed the deliberation that eventually led to the sale of alcohol at West Virginia University’s sporting events. The following quotes are from an August 2014 ESPN story about selling alcohol at college football games:

“I know why the question is relevant for some,” Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst said. “For me, the bottom line does matter. But at what point does it outweigh what you’re trying to do, trying to keep the civility?”

Using an oft-repeated sports marketing catchphrase, Akron athletic director Tom Wistrcill said offering beer is a way to “enhance the fan experience. You do it because, yeah, we want to make some money on it,” Wistrcill said. “But in this day and age, we’re going to fight the 60-inch high-def TV since every game is available on an ESPN broadcast or on the high-quality Internet. How do we keep people coming to the stadium for the in-stadium experience?”

I tend to agree with Mr. Eichorst and the desire for civility. I’ve attended well over 600 professional sporting events in my life, and the atmosphere has often been greatly diminished by the presence of multiple drunken louts. Granted, some of them showed up drunk from their tailgate parties, but a lot of them either got smashed or worse because of the alcohol they bought at the event. That said, the view of Mr. Wistrcill will ultimately win out on most campuses: pack ’em in and raise money.

So, universities are becoming more and more like corporations and politicians. It’s all about money. At least with whores you know who is paying and who is getting screwed.