The Meaning of the Market
There was a time when the term “marketplace” in the context of universities referred to the free exchange of ideas and perspectives, of liberal education and critical thinking. As I wend my way through campus lately, I realize that it has merely become a simple marketplace. As I try to go to classes, 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, to sign petitions, to get a free t-shirt and a credit card, and to check out the deep discounts on last year’s fashion. They are unavoidable. There are an increasing number of times when more than half of the space, our public space, at the Bell Tower becomes a battleground for commercial sales, 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 Activities 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 when jeans and t-shirts are sold in the lobby of Tuttleman, and microwaves and kitchen utensils sold in the common areas of SAC I have to question what Temple University has become. You need a business license to sell things in public space in the city – just not on 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. Apparantly, no longer. I am forced to ask who, or what, benefits from this 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 vendors’ fee or merely kickbacks? Public use of 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 – this is clearly out of control. I no longer wish to walk through the campus, much less hang out. These corporate assaults for my mind and dollar have made the public spaces of Temple University hostile and dangerous, saccharine-sweet pitches covering capitalist poison.
My student fees pay for these spaces. If Temple University is pimping them out to any commercial vendor willing to pay someone in Student Activities under the table, I want my cut. After all, I am a primary investor in this business venture called Temple. Kickback checks can be made out to Glenn A. Reitz, though I prefer cash.
——glenn reitz, pHD student, african american studies (215)777-4910