Summary: This NYT video starts by showing us UNC's inaugural party for incoming freshmen at Target (an American big-box store) where "campus ambassadors" promote corporate brands to their fellow students. At another 50 campuses, American Eagle student representatives help freshmen move into their dorms on their first ever day at college, an iconic and memorable moment to link to corporate branding. As one marketing exec says, "its all about marketing through students as opposed to marketing to students." But what does this mean for university education today? The university, meant to represent intellectual integrity through the pursuit of truth and dissemination of knowledge, is becoming increasingly compromised as budgetary cuts encourage greater reliance on the private sector. The students themselves benefit by gaining work experience, compensation in money and products, and networking (e.g. meeting marketing executives), but are they being manipulated by corporations in the process? Student "ambassadors" in the video report that "when you know companies are not there just to get your money, they're actually willing to help you as an individual in whatever way possible, it makes you respect them a lot more," and that it "feels like what you're doing actually matters." Are these corporations really "willing to help in any way possible" or will they do this only insofar as they have something to gain? A UNC representative notes that they have little control over the commercialization of their campus, and a student advocate for social justice notes that this is "commercialization and materialism at its finest." The video reflects a growing body of research (e.g. The Corporate Campus) documenting the rise of commercialization on college campuses, which offers many excellent readings that can be paired with it. Viewers may be encouraged to reflect on the role of corporations and corporate advertising in society today. How have corporations drawn upon social relationships of trust and legitimacy to further their agenda? How might a Marxian perspective help us understand these processes and what is at stake? Should corporate advertising be banned in certain spaces?
Submitted By: Paul Dean