I served on a student committee that managed the Student Center activities at my university. It was an elected position, although it wasn’t difficult to get elected since it was an unpaid position. This committee met bi-monthly and decided what movies were shown, funded dances and musical events, oversaw club activities within the student center, and gave input on dorm food (probably the most debated subject!).
The Student Center housed the I-Club bar. The “I” was a shortened form of the calculus function “Integral,” something apropos at my technical university. This small bar served 3.2% beer, nonalcoholic drinks, and popcorn. I worked there on Saturday afternoons and evenings when few people were present, except after home football games. The place smelled of beer and salt, and the furnishings were something that only engineers could appreciate.
Golden (Colorado) is famous for two things: the Colorado School of Mines and Coors Brewing. These two institutions were rumored to be linked by a pipeline. The rumor was not true but was wishful thinking during my university days. Our Student Center committee was approached by Anheuser-Busch (AB), the beer company that sold Budweiser and Michelob beer. The I-Club served only Coors beer on-tap. Students could purchase other beer brands by the bottle, but only Coors was served by a keg tap.
AB requested that a Bud tap be installed in the I-Club. The installation would be paid for by AB and the Bud keg price would be discounted relative to Coors. Our committee thought that this was a great deal, and it was unanimously approved. A few days later, our committee was told by the President of the University that Joe Coors, the owner of Coors Brewing and the Chair of the University Board, had requested that Coors be the only beer sold on-tap. We learned that the Coors family had donated millions to the university and wanted exclusive tap rights on campus. Coors beer was not on-tap at St. Louis University, only Budweiser.
Our committee faced a dilemma, so we invited both Coors and AB to our meeting. Each company representative presented their case and answered questions. Afterwards, our committee reversed the previous vote and declared that the I-Club would continue to serve only Coors on-tap. When I graduated a year later, Joe Coors handed me my diploma, just like he handed all the students their diplomas during graduation. If our committee had allowed AB a beer tap in the I-Club, I wondered if Joe Coors would have performed this task.
Was our committee right in reversing the vote? I believe it was the right economic decision with all factors considered. But take away the philanthropic aspects in the decision, it was the wrong decision as a single tap was monopolistic and higher priced. The Coors exclusivity in the I-Club was more personal than political. Golden was the only Coors beer plant in the nation and university students were welcome at the Coors hospitality room for free. Competitors relished publicizing their beer tap next to Coors at our university bar.
In his 1932 publication, Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics (Must Have Books, Victoria, BC, 2021), Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr discussed in Chapter 9 “The Preservation of Moral Values in Politics.” In this chapter, Niebuhr is seeking a way to meet political power with non-violent power, after writing in several chapters that violence is permissible, if performed in goodwill. “If coercion, self-assertion and conflict are regarded as permissible and necessary instruments of social redemption, how are perpetual conflict and perennial tyranny to be avoided? What is to prevent the instruments of today’s redemption from becoming the chain of tomorrow’s enslavement? … An adequate political morality must do justice to the insights of both moralists and political realists. It will recognize that human society will probably never escape social conflict.” (pages 128–9) Niebuhr places equality above peace; however, “violence may tend to perpetuate injustices, even when its aim is justice.” (page 130)
There are groups in society, such as American blacks and Indians under British rule, that can never achieve justice through violent confrontation. The State, using police and military power, will defeat these groups through superior force. However, non-violence by not co-operating can be powerful. “It expresses itself in the refusal to participate in the ordinary processes of society.” (page 132) Niebuhr analyzed Gandhi’s boycott of English cotton and the resulting negative effects in the England economy. Gandhi’s non-violence movement resulted in social consequences and economically destroy communities.
The purest form of non-violence was Jesus Christ, who advocated non-resistant. Jesus spoke about injustice without trying to directly undermine powerful authorities and was passive against violence committed to him. Niebuhr approved of Gandhi’s tactics. “It may be necessary at times to sacrifice a degree of moral purity for political effectiveness. … They also must be judged in terms of the purposes which they serve.” (page 134–5)
One of the most powerful aspects of non-violent resistance is that it “is usually the better method of expressing goodwill.” (page 136) Gandhi’s non-violence movement allowed him to maintain relationships with the British people who eventually pushed their government to allow India self-rule. “Mr. Gandhi never tires of making a distinction between individual Englishmen and the system of imperialism which they maintain. ‘An Englishman in office,’ he declares, ‘is different from an Englishman outside.’” (page 136) Non-violence can retain harmonious relationships while resisting injustices.
Niebuhr wrote his book in 1932, before the American civil rights movement. But he predicted the future. “The emancipation of the Negro race in America probably waits upon the adequate development of this kind of social and political strategy.” (page 138) He does not advocate a violent black rebellion because justice cannot be won through violence. Religion plays an important part in political life by illustrating transcendent values and examples of non-violent resistance.
Looking back to my university days over forty years ago, I believe our Student Center committee made the right decision. Giving exclusive I-Club tap rights to Coors was a small token of appreciation to a family who financially helped many students, funded research, and built campus buildings. Joe Coors gave his time, talents, and resources to future generations. Even at our young, idealistic age, the students serving on a Student Center committee recognized his accomplishments and goodwill. Joe Coors earned his solo tap without any competitors beside it.