A-B InBev Offers Beerology at University of Illinois

September 17, 2013

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As if it weren't enough that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is number 3 on the list of top party schools, apparently Anheuser-Busch InBev wants students to major in beer as well. The company is opening a new Bud Lab at the campus, where student interns will learn how to use data to promote the corporation's portfolio of leading beer brands.

This partnership of Big Alcohol and public educational institutions is not the first, but it represents a disturbing trend. Excessive drinking on college campuses is already a public health disaster. Allowing corporations such as A-B InBev, MillerCoors, or Diageo to infiltrate educational content and promote their brands as part of the institution gives them an air of legitimacy. It also sends a message to students, parents, faculty, and alumni that alcohol corporations are beneficent, and their products harmless - when in reality, excessive alcohol consumption causes 80,000 deaths and $223.5 billion in economic harm in the U.S. each year.

Accepting funding and sponsorship from Big Alcohol is also a conflict of interest for higher education. Colleges and universities that accept large gifts from alcohol companies lose the autonomy to make and enforce the most effective policies to prevent alcohol-related harm on their campuses, such as limiting access and availability of alcohol. The presence of a corporate alcohol sponsor on campus also discourages academic freedom to present educational content that sheds light on alcohol-related harm and questionable corporate practices.

The UI Urbana-Champaign should reconsider its misguided decision to let A-B InBev sponsor its curriculum. Other universities should pay attention and not sell out their autonomy, academic freedom, and student health to Big Alcohol.