Thursday, November 4, 2010
Up with students! Down with corporatization!
It's been about a month and a half since I pulled my little "boxing against corporatization" stunt at the U of W, so I figured that I'd make a blog post compiling the coverage and response it received as well as my retrospective thoughts on the matter.
First, here is the news piece about the action:
Here is my letter to the editor that appeared in the same issue of the Uniter as the story above:
And here are the letters that comprised a short back and forth between myself and one of my detractors:
Get it? "Think outside the box"? GENIUS! Even though it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever in that context, I fully understand why he used it. That shit is just too damn clever not to use.
As far as the action itself went, I'm very happy with it. It was a lot of work, but it paid off with the Uniter coverage, the awareness I raised while collecting signatures, and the attention I got from the UWSA. I haven't changed the minds of those in power of the U of W student government yet, but at least I started a conversation that should be happening in every university across the globe. They now know that some people care enough about the issue to wear a box and look like an idiot.
The way I framed the issue was purposefully moderate in an attempt to appeal to the average student. The question I asked when I was collecting signatures for my petition was, "Who do you think the UWSA should prioritize: students or corporations?" The question I really wanted to ask would have been, "Why should corporations be allowed to advertise at all, anywhere, ever?"
But back to the question I actually did ask. It's a simplistic representation of reality, but I don't think it's an unfair question. By giving RBC, MTS, BMO, Rogers, etc. prime real estate to sell their wares for profit at the expense of the student groups who are merely attempting to create community out of the goodness of their hearts, is careless at best and at worst belies a deeply flawed perspective of what the post-secondary experience should be about. I'm afraid the truth may be closer to the latter.
During my conversations with various UWSA folks, one talking point that kept getting repeated was that we need sponsors in order to pay for a big party that students are demanding. Really? If there was no O-Week next year do they think that there would be a riot? Would most students even notice? I'm not saying don't have a party at all, but I am saying that it could be radically scaled back in terms of cost without sacrificing its capacity to improve school spirit and let the kids have a little fun. In fact, I think an O-Week that focused on local up-and-coming music acts, rather than the biggest name out-of-towner that they could afford would have created a better sense of community, given some great unheard bands some visibility, and supported the Winnipeg arts scene in general.
I think if O-Week involved teams from different faculties getting together to compete against each other in various games and sports, it would go a long way to reducing the apathy that I saw on campus when I attended the U of W. Not to mention how incredibly cheap it would be. Pit the Physics department against the Classics department in a game of soccer. Make the Kinesiology kids play a quiz game-show type game against the Drama kids. Have Anthropology square off against Politics in a no-holds-barred water balloon relay. Offer prizes, make the teams dress in the same colour, and maybe even give out hot dogs (as long as some are tofu).
I'm not complete curmudgeon. I don't hate fun. What I do hate is the completely unnecessary turn towards corporatization that the UWSA took during this year's O-Week. I care because I spent four years of my life at the U of W and my time there made me the person I am today. To see it cluttered with corporate booths trying to entice gullible students into taking on more debt load than they already have was heartbreaking. The UWSA needs to start thinking outside the box. OH SNAP!