At one time, the term “marketplace” in the context of universities referred to the free exchange of ideas and perspectives, of liberal education and critical thinking. But lately, as I work my way through campus, I realize that it has merely become a simple marketplace; a shopping mall.
I must weave my way through the battered vending tables that surround the high-traffic student areas. I am assaulted by pitches to subscribe to newsletters, sign petitions, get a free T-shirt and a credit card and check out the discounts on last year’s fashions. It is unavoidable. More and more our public space at the Bell Tower is becoming a battleground for commercial sales, with each vendor fighting for access to our minds, time and attention.
Don’t we have enough distractions from our studies as it is? When the Student Center is turned into a hi-tech version of an opium den (just play one video game – the first one is free, brought to you by EA Sports) and clothing sales take place in Tuttleman lobby, I have to question what Temple University has become. In this city, you need a business license to sell products in public spaces. Just not on this campus, it seems.
Profit-driven corporate mindsets have forever changed the landscape, and thus the purpose and use, of these hallowed halls of education.What is the mentality that allows most of the public space on campus to be used without supervision by commercial retailers seeking a captive and easily influenced audience?
There used to be a time when such displays had to be sponsored by and related to a specific student group or activity. No longer, apparently.
What I am wondering is who or what benefits from the commercialization of educational space. If there is no student group responsible for and benefiting from these vendors, then who is authorizing them to pollute our spaces? Who has determined that there is a student need for another credit card vendor or poster retailer on our campus? How does this benefit the University? Do they have to pay a vendor’s fee or merely pay kickbacks? Who is selling us to market research teams? Public use of the sidewalks does not extend into our buildings.
When Student Activities stamps flyers for public posting that are simply advertisements with no reference to any student group, activity or event – things are clearly out of control. I no longer want to walk through the campus. These corporate assaults for my mind and dollar have made the public spaces of Temple hostile and dangerous, full of saccharine-sweet pitches covering up capitalist poison.
My student fees pay for these spaces. If Temple University is pimping them out to any commercial vendor who is willing to pay someone in Student Activities under the table, I want my cut. Checks can be made out to Glenn A. Reitz, though I prefer cash.
Glenn Reitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.