RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University’s students, faculty members and fans have all shown their support and spirit through the school’s branded stickers, flags and T-shirts. Now, after an interim policy put in place in May 2022, the university can add a branded beer to that list for the first time since 2013.
In a statement to 8News, VCU spokesperson Michael Porter explained the policy change.
“Branded beer is permitted under VCU’s interim University Trademarks & Licensing policy as approved in May 2022,” Porter said.
However, not everyone is excited for the new VCU brew.
Professor Everett Carpenter, President of the VCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, cited multiple reasons he and other faculty members do not support the new beer.
To start, Carpenter questioned the legitimacy of the interim policy’s implementation.
“Interim policy is designed only for emergencies,” Carpenter said. “In case of accreditation or federal regulation change. It’s hard to see how branding a beer is an emergency situation that warrants an interim policy change.”
The professor added that a faculty committee unanimously voted against the new branding, but that administration ignored their input.
“The choice to brand a beer at VCU is a breakdown of the principles of shared governance here at VCU,” Carpenter said.
Among concerns discussed by the aforementioned committee was the average age of VCU students.
“About half of VCU undergraduate students are under Virginia’s legal drinking age of 21 years old,” Carpenter said.
Underage drinking and recent alcohol-related tragedies at VCU remained focal to the controversy regarding the new beverage. About a month ago, the university paid a million dollars to the family of Adam Oakes, a freshman student whose hazing-related death sparked discourse and systemic change in Greek life operations on campus, with particular attention to alcohol consumption. Carpenter noted there’s a bigger picture to the backlash.
“It absolutely is the message,” Carpenter said. “The message that it sends to the community of putting VCU’s logo on a beer. Given recent events, I think it’s also just a message to the faculty and to the other constituents on campus that your voice doesn’t matter, your objections are irrelevant.”
The professor also noted that VCU-branded alcohol is inconsistent with the school’s operation of their Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies and Alcohol Research Center. He also cited the community’s education and outreach efforts.
Porter specified that the beer’s proceeds will go to student scholarships and that the product is entirely intended to be consumed and distributed legally.
VCU will not market the branded beer directly to students,” Porter said. “It is designed for alumni and sports fans of legal drinking age – as are similar branded beverages already available from three other Virginia universities.”
The beer’s launch takes place Wednesday, Oct. 26, at Hardywood Park.
“The launch of VCU branded beer will be accompanied by a strong message of responsible use to demonstrate VCU’s commitment to advocate against underage drinking and the abuse of alcohol products,” Porter said.
While Professor Carpenter’s stance remains solidly against the beer’s development and distribution altogether, he suggested a limited release as a compromise.