RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is facing criticism from some faculty members after it allowed university branding to be used on a local beer, circumventing the school’s own policies.
Just over a month ago, VCU paid $1 million to the family of Adam Oakes, a VCU freshman whose hazing-related death from alcohol poisoning led to a reckoning for Greek life on campus.
VCU has long barred its branding from appearing on alcoholic beverages as part of university policy, but in May, President Michael Rao instituted interim rules that allowed branded beer for the first time since at least 2013. Now, Hardywood and the VCU alumni association are planning to sell a VCU-branded beer starting on Wednesday, Oct. 26.
However, according to Everett Carpenter, president of the VCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the policy change that allowed that branding has already been rejected by a faculty committee that was supposed to oversee university policy.
“The proposed changes were voted down unanimously,” Carpenter wrote in an open letter to Rao. “This action violates the spirit of shared governance with your VCU colleagues.”
Carpenter wrote that the decision to push through this branding “seems incredibly insensitive and disrespectful considering recent alcohol-related tragedies.”
Michael Porter, a spokesperson for the university, said that such branding isn’t unusual in the commonwealth, pointing to three other universities that have made similar deals to brand beer — including Virginia Tech, which has worked with Hardywood itself.
“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.”
Porter added that the launch, which will take place at Hardywood Park on Wednesday, would be “accompanied by a strong message of responsible use.” The calendar item on VCU’s website does not specify how that message will be conveyed, but does highlight a free beer tasting and a raffle for “beer-branded swag.”
Porter also told News 2’s sister station, WRIC, that proceeds from the sale of the branded beer would “go directly to student scholarships.”