Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bob Cuddy: Poly dodges blame for sloshed teens

I know this is going to trigger an elephantlike stampede of righteously indignant Cal Poly folks, looking to snatch me up in their trunks and slam me against the nearest oak tree.

But I have to say it anyway: I find their attitude about recent arrests of drunken teen-agers highly offensive.

Here we have crowds of young men and women roving hammered through the streets of San Luis Obispo and generally disrupting regular folks.

And what are leaders of Cal Poly and its Week of Welcome program worried about? Whether they are going to get blamed for any of it.

One WOW leader wrote The Tribune that she was “truly upset” about taking the rap for the rowdiness, and added that two WOW leaders were driven to weeping.

The article that turned on the waterworks reported police being needed and young people being treated for alcohol poisoning after a WOW event.

WOW leaders thought the article blamed them. They blubbered through their tears that far from encouraging lawless behavior, they work hard to prevent it.

Hey, nobody said you didn’t. And you deserve praise for the considerable effort you make.

Maybe you could think of even better plans to curb young people’s bad behavior if you spent less time worrying about your image.

You can’t really blame callow WOW leaders, though. They are taking their cue from the university’s collection of flacks, who are ever vigilant for anything that might make Cal Poly look bad.

Since the latest series of arrests began, the public-relations department has been working the crowd, trying to make sure everyone knows that Cal Poly is in no way responsible for rude behavior by young people who attend the university.

It’s just a coincidence that kids who attend Cal Poly suddenly wake up standing in a stranger’s kitchen with no idea of how they got there.

Oh, wait. One of the young men accused of doing that is not a Cal Poly student — he graduated earlier this year. So there’s no connection.

I’m glad we were able to clarify that.

The university’s positive-spin handling of the post-WOW arrests carries forward its handling of the noose-Confederate flag scandal on campus last year, and the death of Carson Starkey in December.

Here’s a tip for student WOW leaders: Forget about your image. Get tough, and keep working to fight alcoholism among your classmates.

They are the ones you should worry about; their problems are ongoing.

No such tip for the PR department. They’re paid to do exactly what they are doing: Put a sunny face on shadowy behavior.