Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Editorial, University & Bourbon Banalities

The Lexington Herald-Leader had as its leading editorial on 20 September a piece sort of praising University of Kentucky President Capilouto for taking note of – and visiting appropriate neighborhoods damned by – the “drinking problems” presented by UK students living in off-campus housing. UK banned on-campus alcohol-consumption in 1998, the same year a dead-drunk football player wrecked his pickup just hours after a game, killing two friends (his passengers) but only injuring himself, though not seriously.

Ironically, the player received shock probation and even tried out for the NFL. For the same offense, an “ordinary guy” (most any other student, for instance) would have served serious time under the law. In Kentucky, a basketball/football player at UK is considered just short of the status of one of Michael’s archangels.

The editorialist claimed to be “glad” to hear that the UK prez wants to explore ways to help “students learn to behave and drink responsibly,” something the editorialist considered “an appropriate role for the university.” One wonders how long and demanding a course titled “Drinking Responsibly 101” might be, as well as the level of academic achievement a professor should aspire to in order to hold class, maybe a Ph.D. in Neutralizing Inebriation, surely a complicated subject, like 1500 ways how not to uncork a bottle.

Obviously, this is not an academic matter – the supposed raison d’etra of university endeavor – so one actually wonders if the paper is hinting to the prez that on-campus drinking is now in order, if only for the requirements of this course. Lab-time would be impossible without the needed substances and students, with maybe 20,000 signing up for the first class.

Ironically concerning this subject, the paper published an Op-Ed piece by the president of the Kentucky Distillers Association on 10 September titled “Join in celebrating state’s bourbon heritage.” Bourbon heritage – something to celebrate? That’s like gathering at the cemeteries of the dead “friends” mentioned above and singing, “Gimme That Old Bourbon Religion.”

The Distiller-in-Chief laid out ten ways to carry out this marvelous celebration: tour a distillery (even mentioned free T-shirts and locations); visit a whiskey-history museum (but make a donation); volunteer for the “Bourbon Chase” (an overnight relay race with stops at distilleries); hold one’s own bourbon-tasting activity for friends and family (age not mentioned, though peer-impression was); visit a craft distillery (locations furnished); join the BWA (not Baptist World Alliance but the Bourbon Women Association.

Four to go: Explore “bourbon cuisine” around Lexington and Louisville (rest of the state simply not hip enough – sophistication has its place); don’t miss the huge Kentucky Bourbon Festival (all biggie distillers “under one roof,” with visitors hopefully not under many tables); look for the perfect gift to surprise a “bourbon connoisseur.” Anyone for a custom-made breathalyzer?

This last “celebration-item” has me still laughing: “Be a designated driver. Let someone else rejoice and celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month [why not a whole year?] while you stay sober and make sure everyone gets home safely.” You can’t make up this stuff! This item makes the distiller-prexy’s entire epitome-of-wisdom piece into a colossal oxymoron. In other words, celebrate but don’t take a chance on drinking any of the stuff and endangering the society! Only in Kentucky!

So…what’s a university president to do? He’s already damned in the neighborhoods for forcing the drunk students to party off-campus but he’ll be damned by reasonable people, not to mention law enforcement officers, for allowing the students, most of whom are underage anyway, for allowing alcohol-consumption in the dorms or most anywhere else where vomit can be easily cleaned up…or not. The answer: Nothing! Stop wasting time attempting to placate either the newspaper or the landlords. Stick to running the university.

The obvious answer is to simply inform the landlords that it’s their responsibility to take care of their own neighborhoods, not that of the university or the police, or any other entity. These people have turned their houses into apartments, some of them adding on huge additions indiscriminately until the laws stopped that, but continue to renege on their responsibility to keep their areas clean and quiet. This is not even to mention the traffic/parking/general-filth problems.

Lest anyone caterwaul about privacy (the usual politically correct whine), it’s surely the inordinately stupid landlord who doesn’t inspect his apartments regularly to guarantee that they aren’t torn apart, filthy, or otherwise offensive. He can – or not – ban alcohol and/or parties/orgies…his choice, his responsibility.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

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