Booze marketer Puff Daddy satisfies Howard’s high standards

Filed under OPINION

00_BarbaraReynoldsNext year if your resume includes pushing alcohol to youth, writing female-bashing, profanity-laden lyrics, dropping out of college and being indicted on gun charges or worse, take heart. If you have enough big bucks, you too could end up making a college commencement address and receiving an honorary doctorate. Didn’t Diddy do it?

Howard University, my alma mater, prides itself in setting high standards for young people. In May, Howard officials outdid themselves in awarding hip-hopper entrepreneur Sean (Puff Daddy) Combs an honorary doctorate after making a commencement address. Forbes says Combs has a booze-partnership with Diageo, a British-based beverage firm to hawk Diageo’s Ciroc Vodka. The deal reaps Combs millions for his marketing role that entices youth to get high.

Celebrate with alcohol
You have probably seen Combs’ TV commercials. Smoothly dressed, fawned over by young girls (he has called them hoes in his rap lyrics) brandishing Ciroc vodka which by his lifestyle equates booze with the good life. In a recent interview he extolled Ciroc vodka’s brand as a great way to celebrate youth.

Combs really knows how to celebrate, says Britain’s Sun tabloid. Combs– Howards’ role model– recently blew $164,000 on a party at a London nightclub. “The bill included 17 magnums of Moet Rose, six magnums of Dom Perignon champagne and “several methuselahs” of Sputnik vodka.

With all the crises alcohol is contributing to on college campuses, Combs—although a marketing genius—is a bottom of the barrel choice for college students who are setting records getting high without the likes of a Puff Daddy cheerleader.

Death, traffic injuries, sexual assault and rape are just a few of the tragic consequences of alcohol on college campuses. About 1,900 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape, according to the National Institute of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Students divided on Combs
Alcohol figures heavily into college dropping outs, missing grades, falling behind and receiving lower grades, which should be another reason to avoid celebrating alcohol on college campuses.
Many Howard students were divided over the choice of Combs. Defenders pointed to Combs’ millionaire status, which interim president, Wayne A. Frederick, obviously thought qualified Combs as the kind of doctor their students needed.

Pimps, prostitutes, hedge-fund rip-off artists, drug dealers (alcohol is considered a drug) all make money.  If that is the greatest measure of success and encouraging young people to get high is a worthy credential for being honored in an academic setting, we have a problem.

Dr. Barbara Reynolds is the president of the Women’s Christian Action Network.

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