In the last week, UCR has made perhaps the single greatest stride forward on the path to greatness in academia in its 60-year history. Although serving the underserved of California and the nation is a laudable goal, and opening the first new school of medicine in half a century is an astounding achievement, both pale in comparison to the success UCR has obtained, and will obtain, now that we have thrown open our doors to corporate sponsorships.
We admit it — the Highlander’s been skeptical of privatization in the past. We worried about the ethical issues of inviting corporations to campus. Wouldn’t it create conflicts of interest? Would they truly have our best interests at heart?
We didn’t know the answers to those questions at first, and that scared us; after all, humans have always been scared of the unknown. But when the Highlander talked to Taco Bell about a possible sale, the CEO of the company assuaged our fears. We need to balance our budget, after all — nobody can operate indefinitely into the future if they’re losing money, and there’s no reason to look to individuals, students, or especially the government to fund a public university anyway. Taco Bell provides us an opportunity to do just that, and continue serving the campus we love, but with a stable budget and 100 percent more advertisements for the delicious food you can eat at Taco Bell. Frankly, we’re glad we took the pioneering step forward into a bright new era of taco-fueled journalism.
The evidence of the positive change privatization can bring about is easy to see. When you look around the UCR campus now, there is more diversity in dining options than ever before. Pizza by Panda is offering students a unique blend of Chinese-Italian cuisine, seen hardly anywhere else. Subway by Panda has expanded its offerings of sandwiches to nearly double what it was before, including unique Chinese fusion sandwiches. And with the transfer of ownership of dining services to Panda Express, students should prepare to face a smorgasbord of new and interesting Chinese dishes in the dining halls. Before, it was hard to find orange chicken ever in the dining hall. Now students can find it there all day, every day. Nobody can deny that students now have more food options available to them than ever before, a watershed moment for hungry students who have always clamored for more choice.
Beyond the sheer number of options we now have, there’s a lot more fun to be had on campus now too. We’ve dispensed with the old Bell Tower, a rickety relic of the past, in favor of an amusement ride that can make money for the campus; now, students don’t have to stray far to have fun. The new 7-Eleven in the Panda Union Building (PUB) is a great way to grab some grub and the design is much more modern, enlivening the shopping experience.
Partnerships with companies has provided students with more choice. It’s provided students with more fun. The overall UCR experience is a lot more enjoyable. The sound of a boring campus is long gone; in its place are the shouts of students enjoying Disney’s latest attractions and the laughter of students spending time at Panda Express by Panda.
Given all the success of privatization in the nonacademic realm, and the stability in funding and food we have received from Taco Bell, the best aspect of Chancellor Kim Wilcox’s recent moves is that the world of academia is privatized as well. Academia has been isolated from the influences of the real world for too long. Instead of producing research demanded by the public, professors fritter away their time engaging in studies that produce results of little practical value for the UC. For instance, we know where to find the oldest known galaxy in the universe, but what impact has that had? The announcement was made, written about and then lost to the sands of time. Why have we not commemorated the achievement? The physics department could have created T-shirts featuring the new galaxy, or UCR could have held a festival for Riverside residents to celebrate the discovery with food and drink. But dedicated to an obsolete notion of academics, UCR let this perfect opportunity to generate funding go. If PepsiCo was in charge of the physics department, this would not have gone to waste, and UCR would have made millions of dollars from the hard work of its researchers. What’s more, the physics department can now spend its time on more worthwhile endeavors, such as discovering which combinations of syrups are the most popular with college-age students.
Some have worried that corporate partnerships will decrease the quality of education at UCR, but from what we have seen so far, it has been an astounding success. Corporate sponsorships of the classroom have further allowed departments to purchase and integrate more technology than ever before, giving students a better, more interactive way than ever to learn. Every UCR student now gets a free iPad that can be used to track their grades, assignments and classes as a result of Apple purchasing the Office of Computing and Communications. These iPads are linked with iPads in the classroom to track student attendance, improving academic performance. Furthermore, by linking to a system in the Barnes and Noble bookstore, the system is able to identify which students haven’t purchased books from the bookstore and dock them points for failing to take their education seriously. After all, no company wants to be associated with a group of failing students.
There are numerous other benefits besides these, as well. In a time where it’s hard to find and keep a job, students have direct access to jobs after they graduate, with AMC Theatre majors having janitorial jobs available to them immediately after graduate (and even jobs at concessions if the GPA is high enough). More opportunities for research are available to students looking to set themselves apart from the crowd and create the next Adderall. Professors can take time away from writing grants to focus on teaching and research, since funding is already provided by department sponsors. And they don’t have to worry about coming up with a curriculum, since department sponsors will ensure there is a steady flow of new ideas coming into the classroom.
Perhaps best of all, UCR will no longer have to rely on the state to fund this public university. We’re getting all the money we need from private partnerships, and the whims of the state are now secondary to the university’s operations. Gone is the worry over state budgets and whether tax revenue will be sufficient to fund this public institution. The long march of progress, beginning with the passage of Proposition 13 and the subsequent reduction in tax collection, has reached its apex with the current status of UCR. UCR is leading the way forward for public universities everywhere, establishing a one-of-its-kind system where a public university has no public investment whatsoever.
Privatization has already done a wealth of good for UCR. That last, final barrier between academia and the real world has been broken, and we already see the wealth of benefits that has resulted. We have more choices, better professors, more interesting classes, and better access to technology than ever before. All we had to do was take the public out of a public university.