Last week, Chase promoted student credit cards with free rides around campus on bicycle carts. This week, students will be able try on Levi’s jeans in Kogan Plaza for a shot to be the brand’s next model. Corporate advertising helps to attract students and earn revenue for universities, but these displays highlight a trend toward the commercialization of higher education. Administrators should use caution when facilitating marketing extravaganzas that have the potential to erode the GW educational experience.
Major corporations have tapped into the college demographic, usually students with more credit than they can pay back or access to their parents’ cash. Yahoo recently offered to purchase Facebook in a multimillion-dollar deal. In August, MTV’s parent company purchased Y2M: Youth Media and Marketing Networks, which represents a number of college newspapers around the country, including The GW Hatchet.
With increasing commercialization on campus, colleges and universities must pay attention to the fact that this phenomenon may become a dangerous trend that could erode the main purposes of college – a strong education and a sense of community.
Ostensibly, the ivory tower is an institution that is independent of society’s whims and fads. Classically, college is a place where young people can come to objectively discover the fundamental truths that underlie their respective disciplines. Students are also able to participate in a unique and cohesive campus culture that provides stable ground for entry into the real world.
An inordinate presence of commercial sponsors and corporate interests on campus may prevent students from focusing on the true endeavor of independent learning. While this sort of advertising has not yet entered the classroom, sponsorships all around campus provide a distraction from the principles and lessons learned in class. An economics course discussion on credit could easily be influenced when the student leaves the class to find a booth managed by a major credit card company.
It would be unreasonable to assume that a college campus should be free of any activities that do not contribute to some scholarly end. It is essential, however, that these extracurricular events serve to benefit a university’s community culture or spirit. A product expo held by a major cellular phone provider could hardly contribute to campus life in the same way that a sporting event or staged play would.
In considering the future influence of corporate America at GW, University administrators should look to avoid a trend that erodes the academic and community aspects of higher education.
In picking which commercial events come to campus, GW should look to those that allow for students to get engaged. For example, a number of business students would certainly be interested in administering a new corporation’s campus advertising campaign. Such an opportunity could help benefit students while allowing for a revenue boost.
As corporate America and higher education come closer together, GW and its fellow institutions across the nation should be careful of excessive commercialization. While students may be wooed by MTV’s or Levi’s visit to campus, the long-term effects of such occurrences, if they are permitted to spread exponentially, could spell danger for the true mission of colleges and universities.