Op-ed: Cal should take down beer and athletics billboard

Has anyone been in the Alta Bates ER on a UC Berkeley football game night? I have, and it is an eye-opening experience of drunkenness and bloody injuries.

I was astonished this week as I headed home from work to see a billboard next to the freeway in Emeryville advertising beer with the Cal Athletics logo. I had noticed a similar billboard a year ago and wrote to the newly appointed Chancellor expressing my concerns. I received a prompt reply from his office noting that they were investigating the situation and implying concern.

I wrote again this year but have received no reply.

Given the recent cases of sexual assault associated with drinking on the campus, coupled with local government concerns regarding UCB students overwhelming emergency services and area emergency rooms as a result of intoxication, it is an incomprehensible choice.

It is even more bizarre when you consider that 75 percent of the undergraduates cannot legally purchase alcohol. I have learned from friends who teach at the university that this is of great concern to faculty, and has been raised with the administration. Somehow, a spokesperson for the university thought is was reassuring to tell the faculty that this billboard was much better because the logo was farther away from the beer!

UCB signed a three-year contract which they are unwilling to break, but plan not to renew. That means another billboard next year. The University of Connecticut had a similar contract, however, and the community uproar caused the administrators to rethink their priorities this fall. The President of their Board of Trustees said publicly in September: “Whatever the intention was, we believe these billboards send the wrong message and we are pleased they are being taken down.” Their contract was broken.

This advertising sends a completely inappropriate message about UC Berkeley and athletics to adolescents in all of our neighboring communities. As a parent and a health-care professional, I would urge the community to express outrage to Chancellor Dirks and the Regents of UC to terminate this inappropriate relationship.

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Jenny Burroughs is a Family Nurse Practitioner who lives in Berkeley.