Selling Our Souls

At the Concordia Student Union’s misnamed Clubs Fair during this year’s Orientation, our seeming benefactors ended up stealing the best spot on the stage.

It should be immediately obvious what the Clubs Fair at Concordia is supposed to promote. However, our student union seemed so interested in promoting the business interests of various big corporations that contributed money to the event that they forgot to promote clubs.

Finding innovative ways of attracting funding is of course not a terrible thing in and of itself. However, there is nothing innovative about reserving space for companies to hawk their goods to students.

While the Clubs Fair should be a time for students to find groups to join, the CSU decided it was time to put them on display as consumers.

Ideally, the extra money received from these sponsors would go towards funding events and activities for Concordia students. But what if students don’t frequent the clubs that should hypothetically reap the benefits of this extra money?

What if students were too distracted by the prominent Telus booth at the front of the fair, luring them in with free swag that our clubs can’t afford to offer? Or the Koodo booth? Or the ScotiaBank booth? Or the Coca-Cola booth?

What if, instead of promoting the clubs that would be bettered by the sponsor dollars, the CSU ultimately did a better job of promoting snack foods?

Even if one is to assume that the advertising revenue was somehow needed, why are we allowing banks, phone companies and snack food vendors to shill their products to students? Aren’t students generally unhealthy and indebted enough?

Student poverty and unemployment rates are growing steadily. Inviting more commercial kiosks to fuel impulse buys is hardly the right step in tackling this issue.

Last year, the CSU did better than break-even with their annual budget and only received $10,000 in advertising revenue for Orientation, as opposed to the $70,000 collected this year.

What exactly was the dire need to sell off even more student space to corporate interests? Why did we need to sell the soul of our event for a bit more money that, according to last year’s budget numbers, we didn’t really need?

The large, prominent booths reserved for corporations were a visual blight on our Orientation festivities, and the only group that really stands to profit from students being sold as customers is the corporations themselves.

The root problem here is an idea that is becoming pervasive both in Concordia and in universities in general: we now assume that every part of the functioning of a university should be for profit. Whether it’s the overall administrative structure or even now our student union, more dollars has been equated with better service.

Where is this extra money going to go?

I don’t exactly foresee a rush of student events from this revenue and the Orientation event itself was comparable in both price and scope to other years when the CSU didn’t overshadow their own clubs with monolithic advertisements. So why did we need to undermine our own event for a few extra bucks?

At least we now know the price of the soul of our school: $70,000 for the trusty CSU war chest.

—Diego Pelaez Gaetz,
Copy Editor

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 05, published September 14, 2010.