Corporatization of York University
Name: Yousra Ahmed Student #: 209168386 T.A.: Sandra Sukhan (Tutorial # 8) Date: November 15, 2007
2 Every year millions of students embark on the dynamic journey of post secondary education in hopes of getting a good education and valuable working skills that they can take with them when they step out into the practical world. Post secondary institutions are designed to provide the finest education in a healthy learning environment with good academic interests. However, living in an era of globalization and corporate rule our universities have no chance of surviving on its own. Clarke and Dopp (2001) have propose that in recent years, there has been an upsurge of corporate affiliation with post secondary institutions, due to lack of government funding, which has transformed the academic environment of universities into one that is geared more towards corporate interests. Universities are desperately seeking to affiliate themselves with wealthy corporations in multimillion dollar contracts and in doing so they fail to realize that they are violating the very principles for what they stand for. In a campus tour of York University, corporate involvement is quite prominent in every corner of the campus. Instead of promoting an academic environment, we are increasingly noticing a corporate takeover of the university campus. There are corporate values seen everywhere on campus - in the advertisements on the walls, bill boards, and washrooms, the large food corporations providing food on campus, corporate battles on campus, and much more deeply rooted ideas not easily noticeable. Our academic institutions are meant to be a learning space for students but are now being influenced by a corporate culture. Vari Hall for example, has had a moment in history where students once misunderstood this space as a place for students and held a protest in the building but soon realized that this act was not allowed. In 2005, police were called in to arrest York students, a couple of whom were badly beaten at the hands of the police, for protesting in a forbidden area. Students argued that Vari Hall should be considered a
3 place where students could have the right to voice their opinions (Behmard, 2005). It is very unfortunate to see that Vari Hall being a building that was designed as a space for students is now being used for corporate advertisement and selling of their products. It appears that slowly but surely these mega multinationals are going to take over the entire campus, if they haven’t already. Corporates with multimillion dollar budgets are grabbing any opportunity they can get to be present in any area of academic institutions. They use the pretext of philanthropy and community involvement to influence the management and board of directors, thereby promoting privatization in academic institutions. As a result, social equity has suffered a major setback at the hands of privatization on campus.
York Lanes is an on campus mall that houses stores of big corporate companies (Telus, IBM, Apple, HP, etc), a convenience store, a pharmacy, doctor’s clinic, a bank, traveling services, the York University Bookstore and a wide variety of restaurants. These resources are available to students on campus for their convenience but it also serves a more corporate purpose. Since the only places available to shop are big corporate stores on campus then one doesn’t have an option but to buy from there. Prices are kept considerably high without realising the limited resources a student has. This kind of environment favours affluent students and deprives the poor. Furthermore, Naomi Klein (2000) suggests that “…the more campuses act and look like malls, the more students behave like consumers.” (98). The York lanes mall takes advantage of students as consumers by creating an environment that looks like a mall that would lure students into buying things.
Student Centre & Other Food Services
Student Centre This space is named “The Student Centre” but it clearly gives an impression of being in “The Corporate Centre”. The presence of more than 5 major fast-food chains has turned this space into a fast-food court. The question arises: is this a place for students or for corporate businesses? It was meant to be a space for students but has turned into a commercial centre promoting corporate interests. If one looks at the way the student centre space has been utilized, it is clearly evident that a major portion of it has been taken away by food chains leaving only the upper level for students use. Overall the student center looks more of a food court rather than a student activities centre. The unattractive remaining 2nd level has been given to students to use for their student clubs. These student clubs promote ethnic/religious activities that favour specific ethnicities/cultures while disfavouring others. Can we consider our student centre a place that promotes social equity and harmony among its student population or is it too indulged in marketing corporate interests?
6 Moreover, a student centre that provides a cascade of fast-food restaurants is not beneficial for students already starved for healthy choices. With a fast food giant breathing its corporate fumes on the campus, what choices do students have? It is a pity that now a days only junk food is being offered for students to consume. Health conscience students have no choice but to go out of campus. In regards to food affordability, again the elitist rule applies: only the privileged can afford the fast food chains leaving out the ordinary, underprivileged students. What options do they have in such restrictive, limited and costly choices? On Campus Food Services Catering giant – Sodexho-Marriot Services, a U.S. based corporation provides food in our campus cafeteria. Again another corporation is selling food in our campus with hiked prices that are only favouring the elite and discriminating the underprivileged. Are we not violating the value of social equity on our campus? Does it not point to social injustice? Can we call our campus one that promotes social equity if it favours the elite and discriminates the less fortunate depriving them of a basic necessity as food?
Vending machines are installed in every nook and cranny of the campus by big corporations who take advantage of their financial muscles and sell their pop bottles at rate twice as much as it would be in a common grocery store. One doesn’t realize the omni presence of these glamorous corporate machines with large corporate logos until one really thinks about it. If we look around the campus, we will see more of these branded machines than the amount of direction signs. To me, these are obvious signs of corporate invasion on our campus. I wonder when students will take notice of this excessive corporate intrusion. The university is a space for students and everything is supposed to be meant for students, however, unfortunately it is increasingly being used for corporate interest promotions. This is a wakeup call; students should voice their concerns and make a movement to put an end to this corporate obsession. This action will be considered a constructive effort to promote social equity on campus. Water Fountains vs. Aquafina Vending Machines One would be surprised to note that York University kindly hosts innumerable free water spouts for students to drink from. Unfortunately these drinking fountains have been grossly overlooked for their maintenance and upgrading. I believe robust consumer corporates readily grasped the opportunity to switch users’ attention from rusty water fountains to one of their own glimmering, high-tech, state of the art, coin operated water dispensing machines. I wonder if the university management ever asked the students’ opinion before giving the Pepsi Cola or the Aquafina company a green signal to install and enjoy free electricity and premises. To me it appears that corporates have infiltrated into the policy makers, board of directors, managers of facilities in a way that they almost have control over everything. Now the question arises: what would be their next move?
8 Pesi Cola vending machines The appearance of Pepsi vending machines everywhere on campus can suggest that Pepsi could likely be the “official soft drink” of York University. (Klein, 2000). York University campus has become a sovereign Pepsi state where Coke cannot be admitted. Without going into the background for the reason why Coke has been excluded, I can imagine that the Coke corporation must have tried hard to be an equal participant in our campus but somehow Pepsi seems to have won that race and knocked Coca cola out of the campus. This leaves students to only one choice of soft drink, which is unjust. The following quote by Klein supports my above said arguments of how the Pepsi and Coke corporations have turned academic institutions into a Pepsi - Coke battleground. “In Toronto, [Pepsi Cola Company] gets to fill the 560 public schools with its vending machines, to block the sales of Coke and other competitors…” (90). There is a clear connection there, yet it makes you wonder where does all that money go?
Based on the examples of corporate rule on campus, it seems quite plausible that the York University campus has been re-imaged as one that brandishes corporatization and commercialism rather than academic interests. The increased involvement of corporations in our campus environment suggests that our university is falling short of what it stands for. York University is an academic institution that should have its major objective as promoting and excelling in education standards. Just walking around on campus one will surely be forced to think that they are in an overly corporate friendly ground. Giving free access to corporate intrusion of our campus we are not only walking away from the roots of our institution but also allowing our freedom of choice and speech to be usurped. By the accumulating corporate involvement in our university it appears as if York University
9 has turned its academic interests to corporate interests. Is York University an academic institution or a money-making monopoly? The values that York tries to embed in its students are being altered by the university itself. Is this what universities are supposed to offer to students? Are we teaching our future generations correctly? Are we going in the direction where the elitist shall prosper and the common person shouldn’t? Can we keep on ignoring while our environment is being tarnished to meet corporate interests and goals? If nothing is done in the immediate future to remedy the present situation on campus we will be defying our own set principles of social equity and environmental sustainability on campus.
10 Works Cited: Behmard, M. (2005, January 31). National: Students beaten in York University protest. The Peak. Clarke T. and Dopp S. (2001). Exposing corporate rule on campus and in classrooms. In Challenging McWorld. (pp. 12-28). Klein, N. (2000). The Branding of Learning: Ads in Schools and Universities. In No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. (pp 86-105).