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Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Letter to the Editor: Response to “Not in our interest”

In the Jan. 31 editorial “Not in our interest,” the authors make a case against the appropriation of campus resources in order to allow a bank to occupy space in the Memorial Union. However, they attempt to conceal weak arguments behind lofty rhetoric intended to shamelessly romanticize the college campus as an enlightened utopia thriving on the raw power of pristine, distilled human ingenuity. Though they are right to seek to define a campus’ meaning, they fall victim to a pervasive “campus-as-church” fallacy, a hyper-educationalism more akin to a grandfather’s nostalgia about his days at Yale than to the present reality of student life.

The authors contend that the bank consumes “prime campus space that is meant to be a central location for student activity and resources.”  What, then, becomes a permissible student resource for the MU? Perhaps the dining services and coffee shop that dominate half of the main level are acceptable simply because the authors make use of them, whereas the bank is a nuisance because it does not serve their needs.

Whatever their criteria, by the authors’ broad standards and elitist educational puritanism no moneymaking enterprise can dare lay a claim to students’ funds on a college campus. STA Travel — also located in the MU — is a privately run travel agency that charges fees for its services, but no one is calling for its expulsion from campus. Starbucks has locations at the ARC and the Silo, but its overpriced coffee and for-profit mission has not incurred such indignation.

If I can grab a latte after class at Starbucks, what of the students who genuinely desire to use the services of U.S. Bank? The authors paint the bank as some tyrannical vacuum of hard-earned cash. Yet the institution retains its station at the MU precisely because of, not in spite of, the students who use and benefit from its services. These services include investment opportunities from humble savings accounts to more advanced financial products which earn money for clients. The disruptive nature of the student demonstrations at the bank may be directed at bank personnel, but they also have consequences for our fellow students whose right to participate in these services is violated.

Nobody is obliged to do business at U.S. Bank. If a group feels dissatisfied with its presence, the most effective response is a coordinated non-participation in its services. Those students who require financial assistance are not duped into believing that this bank is their only option. They have myriad campus resources to find alternatives.   Yet for those who do choose U.S. Bank as their source of funding, I believe they would see the institution not as a stumbling block to the principles of education, but as the gateway to a more prosperous future thanks to the education they can now afford.

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