No paper trail left in alcohol policy decision

It took 10 years for an on-campus bar to return to USF with the August opening of Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, but it only took three days for the University’s president to ban daytime alcohol sales at the sports bar.

And it took about two weeks for the Oracle to obtain official, University documents that detail the catalyst behind President Judy Genshaft’s decision — only to find that few such documents exist.

In fact, the only available paper trail surrounding this decision — billed as a way of enforcing the University’s drug and alcohol policies — is a series of e-mails.

These e-mails include a message to campus food-service provider Aramark about Genshaft’s decision. There’s a good deal of exchange on how to break the news to the public, too.

But the lack of record keeping surrounding Genshaft’s decision isn’t out-of-the-ordinary, said USF spokesman Michael Hoad.

Because Genshaft’s move enforces present policy, Hoad said, and doesn’t involve budget or academic changes — or state-level approval — there isn’t much to document.

“That wouldn’t necessarily be in writing because it’s not a policy change in the sense that we understand policy,” he said. “It’s simply a decision on her part.”

A large part of Genshaft’s decision-making process was verbal, Hoad said, and took place at an Aug. 27 cabinet meeting with University vice presidents.

At the meeting, he said, several vice presidents remarked that their employees were “having a beer” at lunch in the Marshall Student Center’s Beef ‘O’ Brady’s and wondered if this was in line with University rules.

“It’s extremely obvious if your employee is in there drinking a beer,” said Hoad, who was present at the meeting. “People started to say, ‘We have a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace policy.'”

USF’s lawyers reviewed the policy.

As it turned out, “It just says you can’t drink and work,” Hoad said.

This, in turn, prompted Genshaft to weigh two possibilities: ignore the policy or think of a compromise that would enforce this rule yet allow drinking at the sports bar, Hoad said.

That compromise turned out to be a ban on alcohol sales at the sports bar before 6 p.m. Before, students could buy beer and wine from ‘O’ Brady’s at any time. Another venue that served alcohol in the student union, the Empty Keg, closed in the 1990s for financial reasons.

Guy Conway, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, broke the news to Aramark with an e-mail Friday, Aug. 29.

“This is the president’s decision and she takes full responsibility for it,” he wrote.

For the rest of that afternoon, administrators debated over the statement’s wording.

This first version — penned by Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall — was sparse, laying out bare facts.

“Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s restaurant in the Marshall Student Center will provide beer and wine for purchase starting at 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and during all operation hours on Saturday and Sunday.”

Genshaft changed the statement so that it opened with: “We are so proud,” and discussed the “thought and consultation” behind the decision. It was later revised to begin “USF is deeply proud.”

‘O’ Brady’s posted USF’s statement on the restaurant’s doors and tables when it opened for business Tuesday, Sept 2.

So far, there haven’t been any faculty complaints, said Sherman Dorn, president of USF’s chapter of United Faculty of Florida.

“We have larger fish to fry,” he said.

A former SG employee sent Genshaft an e-mail Wednesday saying he started a Facebook petition against the decision, which had about 2,000 members as of Sunday night.

Hoad said it’s unlikely that senior business major James Callihan’s efforts are going to sway the policy.

“I don’t think she’s going to consider it,” Hoad said. “You want to take input seriously, but a Facebook group … is just clicking a link.”