On January 27, 1971, University of Maryland President Wilson Elkins received a letter which began:
“It has come to our attention through a recent Associated Press dispatch that you are conducting a course entitled ‘Techniques of Home Brewing’ and that as part of this course beer is being produced in the classroom. Section 5054 (a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code provides that the tax on any beer produced in the United States at any place other than a qualified brewery shall be due and payable immediately upon production.”
In other words: You made beer in class? Cool. Where’s our check?
Elkins, of course, had no idea what the kindly federal officer was talking about, and asked for clarification. The officer produced the offending article (two tiny paragraphs) which indicated that the course was being offered on a non-credit basis by the Student Government Association (in other words, clearly NOT a university course). An investigation determined that while a ‘lecture’ about the techniques of beer brewing took place (and involved a grand total of THREE students, including the lecturer!), there was “no demonstration of the process nor was beer produced in this setting.”
Meanwhile, the ‘investigation’ ended up involving much of the university’s administration (President Elkins, Chancellor Bishop, VP Hornbake, VC Callcott), the IRS, and the Maryland State Attorney General’s Office–and all because of a tiny little article that couldn’t possibly have been sourced properly, because it wasn’t true. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Establishment!
(Source material: President’s Office, Acc. 94-85, Box 274, “Chancellor-C.P. Campus Re: Internal Revenue Serv–SGA Course on Making Beer-January 1971”)