By Dr. Sachin Kamble, Daily Texas Opinion Page (Sept. 24, 2017) — Earlier this year, the University of Texas Athletics Department announced its new partnership with Corona Extra, making the beer an official sponsor of the Texas Longhorns. Many people view drinking as a traditional part of the college experience, but often ignore the potential consequences of promoting alcohol on campus. A July 12 column by Emma Berdanier outlined some of the potential pitfalls of a partnership with Corona Extra, and there is substantial evidence that the partnership between the University of Texas and Corona Extra is misguided.
Multiple studies have shown the negative public health impact of underage drinking. The vast majority of undergraduates are underage, which makes them susceptible to the risky behaviors and negative consequences that come with higher alcohol consumption. Through the Corona Extra sponsorship on campus, UT is increasing students’ exposure to alcohol marketing.
Research indicates that youth exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with higher alcohol consumption. Increased alcohol use leads to risky behaviors and negative consequences, including violence, sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, car crashes and unplanned sexual activity.
This new partnership between UT Athletics and Corona Extra should raise concerns for anyone with ties to the University. As campuses struggle with challenges associated with drinking and problems that follow excessive alcohol use, it’s hard to see UT’s decision as a wise one. When universities like UT appear to endorse student drinking through partnerships with alcohol companies, even in the context of “responsible drinking,” it sends a message that the UT administration is not concerned with underage drinking.
Alcohol use is a major public health issue in Texas and at college campuses in Texas in particular.
Data from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the University of Texas system’s own Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) survey have shown that:
— 80 percent of Texas college students drank alcohol in the past year.
— 41 percent of male and 35 percent of female college students in Texas reported binge drinking in the past month.
— In 2015, 30.3 percent of all DUI drivers involved in fatal car accidents in Texas were under the age of 25.
— 84 percent of perpetrators of unwanted sexual contact at the University of Texas at Austin used alcohol/drugs at the time of victimization.
— 30 percent of perpetrators of physical violence at the University of Texas at Austin used alcohol/drugs at the time of the incident.
Upon receiving the results of the CLASE survey, UT President Gregory Fenves expressed a commitment to creating “a culture of awareness and prevention.” This is an admirable goal, but the partnership between the University of Texas Athletics Department and Corona Extra undermines UT’s commitment to the health and safety of its students.
The University must strive to become an even safer place for its students. Administrators have expressed those same desires; however, this partnership with Corona seems like a step backward.
The UT Administration should affirm its commitment to the wellbeing of their students and reconsider their partnership with Corona Extra.
Kamble is a University of Texas department of Microbiology alumnus and a Hogg Peer Policy Fellow.