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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Editorial: Corporate sponsors

As part of a deal that would bring in $3 million over the next 10 years, UC Davis agreed this fall to allow U.S. Bank to place its logo on the back of every university identification card.

The California Aggie Editorial Board strongly denounced this possibility during negotiations last winter.

“ID cards are university-issued, officially sanctioned forms of identification,” we wrote in a February editorial. “Putting a corporate logo on them is crossing a fine line between benign acceptance of a gift and brazen endorsement of a specific brand.”

Yet now that the university has opened up ID cards for corporate logos, we have a slightly different opinion: Why stop at U.S. Bank?

As the editors and managers of a newspaper, take it from us: Advertising is worth it. We wouldn’t be able to print The Aggie every day without the help of advertisers like Woodstock’s, Chevron, GM, Woodland Healthcare and the Niello Auto Group. That doesn’t denigrate the content of the paper in any way, nor should corporate advertising be seen as a blemish on the UC Davis image.

The university should look into getting more corporate sponsors for the roughly 30,000 ID cards on campus. As far as we can tell, the biggest obstacle to that is the printed excerpt from the UC Davis Principles of Community, which reads, “We affirm the dignity inherent in all of us, and we … will strive to build a true community of spirit and purpose based upon mutual respect and caring.”

That’s a nice altruistic touch, but it takes up a lot of space. In times like these, can we really afford it? Junking that excerpt would make space for at least three more corporate logos, and it’s not unrealistic to suggest that companies such as General Motors, Microsoft or Verizon would pay a pretty penny for all that advertising.

And why stop at ID cards? At 156 feet tall, our iconic water towers provide some of the best visibility in Yolo County. While some might argue that these landmarks are central to UC Davis’ identity, is that really more important than maintaining some of the campus’ world class programs? If Fruit of the Loom executives offered $2 million to paint their colorful logo on the water tower by Interstate 80, wouldn’t that be worth saving our one-of-a-kind Textiles and Clothing program?

UC Davis could sell naming rights to other parts of campus, too. Perhaps George Lucas would pay to have the Social Sciences and Humanities building named after him – it is the Death Star, after all. The university already does this for private donors, but if we step up our efforts we could be making a lot more money.

We’ve never liked the idea of corporate logos on the back of ID cards. But if we’re going to sell out, let’s make the most of it.

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