Traditionally, UM doesn’t harbor the most active political culture. Who needs politics when you’ve got football, right? It was disappointing to see less people gather to protest the war than the number who gathered to watch a car smashed with a hammer during homecoming. It was discouraging to see my fellow students focus more on the traffic problems caused by the FTAA protests than the issues that other people our age found so important that they subjected themselves to police beatings and public ridicule in order to try to have their voices heard.
After all this, however, I was still shocked when I saw Maintenance installing a plasma TV in our UC Breezeway. Clearly, people wouldn’t be able to stop and watch for long periods of time, so why waste even more of my tuition? Luckily, an article in The Hurricane informed me that the TV, as well as one just like it placed in the Wellness Center, was a gift! Oh, lucky us!
A group called the University Network gave us the TVs and is offering us a generous sixth of the time on them to use for displaying announcements while they sell the other five sixths to advertisers (mostly movie trailers so far).
“So what?” you say. “The University got two beautiful TVs for free, and they get 10 seconds every minute they wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
Here’s the catch: it’s not free. Reading further, we see that there are plans to install an automatic volume device, “so that the volume will increase when the Breezeway is very noisy.” When the Breezeway is noisy? Does that mean while you are busy trying to have a conversation?
So it’s been decided that a movie trailer is more important than a conversation you are having in a public space that you pay for the right to use.
We’ve seen already that none of you care about war or worker’s rights or countless other causes, but this boils down to something near and dear to your hearts: your money. This company is taking space in the UC that you pay for in order to make a quick dollar.
Continuous blocks of advertising in a crowded space don’t come cheap. Why couldn’t the University have put up the TVs themselves and used the ad revenue to lower our student activity fee?
This is a University. A place for books, not Ben Affleck; for classifications of spiders, not Spiderman 2. Let’s put these “gifts” back in their boxes and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
James Hush can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.