To the Editor:
In response to the “Notebook” item in your March 29 issue concerning the public service spot sponsored by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and Anheuser-Busch—as well as the ad attacking our association in the same issue--it is a shame that critics saw fit to attack before the public service spot even appeared. The millions of viewers who now have seen the message know that it bears no resemblance to the unfair and highly inaccurate parody contained in the advertisement placed in The Chronicle. We have received much positive response to our actual “safe celebration” spot, which we believe contains an upbeat, timely message that supplements our campuses' efforts to deal with inappropriate behavior after college sports events.
We continue to think that it is only sensible to involve the beverage industry in efforts to promote responsible behavior. Using prime television air time to run a spot encouraging safe, responsible celebrating after athletic events appeared to us to be a good way to demonstrate our joint concerns. According to the logic employed by our critics, Anheuser-Busch could not even contribute to something like a United Way campaign without being accused of doing so to sell its products.
The “Notebook” item quoted a spokesman for the AMA's A Matter of Degree Program denigrating the idea of “responsible drinking” as a “vacuous message that means nothing.” We don't happen to think that fair-minded people need a clinical definition to understand the phrase. We also believe that campaigns to attack public health problems must include an emphasis on personal responsibility. And that's what our spot focuses on; it stresses good sportsmanship, mature behavior, and respect for the law.
We don't have the luxury of believing that there is a magic bullet to solve problems such as rioting or excessive drinking on campuses. Both the message of personal responsibility and the efforts to tighten laws and discourage activities that lead to bad behavior are needed. Our member presidents are pragmatists who understand that they collectively enroll hundreds of thousands of students who are of legal drinking age and nearly as many who are under the legal age. Clearly, no one solution or message is going to be adequate in addressing the complex circumstances we face. Public-health campaigns always take time; we and member campuses have chosen to use all available resources to attack these problems.