By Philippe Devos
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
That was RyeSAC’s theme for the final frosh week of the 20th century — and they’re right. But I don’t feel fine.
I feel ill.
As Ryerson enters the 21rst century, this university, like most others, is no longer just an institute of higher learning; it’s becoming an instrument of corporate indoctrination. While ads around campus urge us to buy expensive items, our professors are teaching us the skills needed to make enough money to afford such luxury goods.
Don’t believe me. Just take a look. The signs, both figurative and literal, are everywhere.
Two years ago, associate dean of business Lee Maguire joked in The Eyeopener that he liked to park his Mercedes 560 SEL in front of the business building because it gives students “something to strive for.”
That was shortly after backlit billboards promoting cars appeared in hallways and ads shilling underwear went up in the washroom. Last year, Ryerson signed a deal to make Coca-Cola the exclusive soft drink supplier to the university.
As part of the Yonge-Dundas redevelopment project now underway, a large electronic screen will appear above the bookstore offering university information and, of course, ads. One multi-storey advertising tower is already under construction atop the Atrium on Bay just west of campus and another is proposed of the corner of Victoria and Dundas streets to the south.
The path north up Yonge Street to Ryerson is already lined with billboards after the renovation of the Eaton Centre.
Here on campus, the corporate presence is having negative effects. Molson sponsored frosh week festivities at the Ram in the Rye and students, already indoctrinated into brand loyalty and carving a Blue, were denied Labatt products. At the island picnic last Friday, sponsored by Labatt, students were denied Molson products.
Earlier in the week, classes in Kerr Hall were disrupted by a noisy AT&T booth giving away free phone cards in the Quad.
I can only imagine what’s next.
How about ads on the toilet paper and paper towels in washrooms? Or professor sponsorship? Profs could wear logos on their shirts like professional athletes and say things like “Enjoy Coca Cola” before class breaks and “I’m going to Disneyland” before the holiday vacation.
Why not put ads in textbooks? “Class, on page 97 next to the GAP ad you’ll find an excerpt from Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.”
I’m still waiting for companies to sponsor individual students, pay for their education, and then demand a number of years of indentured labour in return. Condom companies could sponsor the Don Juan of the dorm and supply him with free rubbers. The big breweries could sponsor popular students to drink their beer. The possibilities are endless.
It is the end of the world as we know it at Ryerson. And I feel like shopping.