The announcement of a possible US Bank branch in the Memorial Union was bad enough. The latest news is even worse.
UC Davis could allow US Bank to put its logo on the back of all UC Davis identification cards as part of the ongoing negotiations to allow a US Bank branch in the MU.
US Bank would pay $190,000 a year for the privilege of both having a centrally located bank branch on campus as well as getting free advertising on every single ID card issued by UC Davis. The proposed contract, which is still being negotiated, would also include a $300,000 signing bonus.
University administrators deserve credit for doing everything they can to find new money in a dire budget year. We have already seen the Gender Education program reach the brink of extinction, and many student employees face layoffs because departments are running out of money.
But this is just inappropriate.
ID cards are university-issued, officially sanctioned forms of identification. Putting a corporate logo on them is crossing a fine line between benign acceptance of a gift and brazen endorsement of a specific brand.
Corporate sponsorship is not always bad. Chevron Corp. has contributed millions of dollars to sponsor the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center. Anheuser-Busch has contributed millions to the forthcoming Anheuser-Busch Brewing and Food Science Laboratory.
The key difference between the US Bank plan and already existing forms of corporate sponsorship is education. The Chevron and Anheuser-Busch sponsorships directly benefit the university’s educational mission. A logo on the back of ID cards does nothing but provide cheap but extremely valuable advertising to US Bank.
UC Davis should not be willing to compromise its values for a few bucks, and that is exactly what would happen if this deal goes through.