May 4, 2004

Corporate sponsorship wrong path for SG

Last week, Ted Koppel staged what deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest acts of anti-war protest in the history of television media: instead of a normal hour-long Nightline program, he read, for a full hour, the names of the men and women killed in Iraq since the beginning of hostilities over a year ago.

And in one of the most stunning and manipulative moves ever, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a media conglomerate which broadcasts Nightline every week, refused to air it on cable television, describing Koppel in terms usually reserved for enemies of the state.

Make no mistake: Last week's Nightline was yanked because the corporation behind it was afraid it would negatively affect their prospects for selling advertising time in the future. Not for any ideological reason.

This is the world we risk if we submit to Raising the BAR's vision of corporate funding for RSOs. By setting up a standing committee that would seek out corporate sponsorship for student events, we as students at this University will be inviting into the hallowed walls of this institution entities whose sole purpose is to profit, by any means necessary.

This is a drastic departure from the current strategy employed by RSOs. Currently, those organizations that need to increase funding can, at their own instigation, seek out independent sources of funding (much like the SASA show did this year). This allows RSOs to maintain creative control over their events.

A standing committee would create questionable intellectual loopholes. With an outside entity apart from RSOs seeking out corporate sponsorship, we might quickly see an illicit market develop around issue-based funding. RSOs in need of funding might be forced to submit to the whims of whichever corporations or private individuals are allied with their goals.

Instead of having RSOs conceive events that they believe will maximize the intellectual development of the campus, this idea will recalibrate RSOs' calculations to tailor events to attract maximum funding.

This would drastically reshape the terrain of RSOs. Companies seeking an audience with students at the U of C would attempt to use their monetary clout to influence the shape of RSO events to match their desires.

We here at the University of Chicago see academic discourse on all topics social, economic, legal, scientific, and theoretical as something sacrosanct. When I advocated for more money for more RSOs in previous columns, I did so because I believe that the more events our RSOs hold, the more this campus will come alive with the passions of our student body. As we increase in size, so will we increase in momentum, bringing disparate individuals together to explore those activities that touch their souls. Increased spending for RSOs can make this a reality. Cast your vote for an executive slate, like "Slate of the Union," which has pledged aggressively to pursue a greater share of funds for student life. It is the best bet for any student who wants to see our campus become a more vibrant place.