AAN’s Katherine Grandstrand* notices among the agenda items for the Board of Regents meeting here in Aberdeen today a discussion of proposed legislation for 2016. Leading the list is the Regents’ desire to get into the booze business:
In the coming weeks, a system-level Alcohol Sales Task Force will look at proposed changes to state law that would permit the sale of alcoholic beverages on campuses. The task force is expected to bring its recommendations to the Board’s December meeting. Subject to the task force’s final report, legislation may be advanced to authorize BOR- governed institutions to obtain and operate under on-sale alcohol licenses and special event alcohol on- and off-sale permits, in order to improve service, control, attendance, and revenue generation at institutional events for the benefit of university programming and operational enhancements [South Dakota Board of Regents, Agenda Item 4-G, October 7–8, 2015].
The teetotaler in me says whoa, horse: Do the Regents need to make higher education any higher? Does selling alcohol mean we abandon the dry-campus concept entirely and open basketball games and dorms to beer? Can teetotaling students get an exemption from whatever portion of their tuition and fees the Regents use to buy that liquor license?
The policy wonk in me wonders if the Regents will expand on their alcohol licenses and seek install video lottery terminals on campus as well (hey, you want to generate revenue, right?).
The capitalist in me (there is one, very small) asks how well local entrepreneurs will respond to having to compete with the deep-pocketed Board of Regents for the finite number of licenses available in Lake, Brookings, Clay, Brown, and Lawrence counties for selling hooch. (Pennington County won’t have to worry—the kids at Mines are too busy engineering to want any beer on their campus, right?)
Finally, the educator in me (always sending the capitalist to the principal’s office for making trouble) sees a teachable moment: maybe we can allow the Regents to sell alcohol, but only if it is homebrew. SDSU students already make the best ice cream in the state; let’s set up a still and brand Jackrabbit Moonshine! Let’s create a whole undergraduate program in winemaking and microbrewing, with students learning to make spirited beverages entirely from local ingredients!
Update 20:53 CDT: My original text cited Bob Mercer, who pointed out below that the Regents/alcohol headline came from AAN’s Katherine Grandstrand. I apologize to both reporters for misattributing that discussion-worthy report.