Domestic Affairs

Selling naming rights can be a win-win

By Kim Bowden (
Updated: 2011-05-27 14:59
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Nike is still a major sponsor of the university, and many of the student body still challenge the workings of this partnership. The Nike money is predominantly channeled into sports-related facilities and services, which consequently are racing ahead, leaving other departments floundering at the start line.

This phenomenon of have and have-not departments is not unique to the University of Oregon. Although private-public partnerships are increasingly seen as the answer to university campus-expansion financing woes, it seems corporate sponsorship is more readily available for some departments than others. Biotechnical companies are naturally a good fit for the sciences, while banks or other financial institutions for business schools. Unfortunately, in this model, arts faculties too often struggle for funds, ending up the poorer cousin. The Canadian Union of Public Employees conducted a check-up of university campuses in 2004, which, they said in a press release, "showed that reliance on corporate sponsors has created a two-tier system with a growing gap between arts faculties and science and business faculties."

Although perhaps the partnership between Jeanswest Clothing and Tsinghua University has raised eyebrows because the retail business is seemingly incongruous with a university environment, on the face of it, there doesn't seem to be an obvious ethical dilemma. If the protest is simply the haughty academic argument that private dollars shouldn't creep into public institutions, I say, get over yourselves.

If such a partnership improves facilities for students and teachers without the need for tuition fee increases, it's a win-win situation. However, my advice to the university powers that be: Don't sign any restrictive agreements with private partners that undermine your credibility.

If businesses are willing to hand over big bucks to see their company name emblazoned across the side of a university building, no strings attached, by all means. The young scholars on campus are surely too smart to allow themselves to be blindly manipulated by such blatant commercialism. To not take things at face value and question the world around you – isn't that what a university education is all about?

Kim Bowden hails from Auckland, New Zealand, where she recently completed AUT University’s Postgraduate Journalism Diploma, top of her class.

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