Clear the way for campus sponsorship


If you go to a NFL or MLB game, you’re almost sure to find yourself in a stadium named after a huge corporation. Citi Field in New York City hosts the Mets. The world champion LA Lakers hold their games in the Staples Center. Naming rights allow an organization or business to acquire some much needed cash for the development of projects.

This is why the UI should consider selling the naming rights for the new Recreation and Wellness Center under construction. The money garnered from this process would help reduce the budget constraints for the university and possibly be used to lower the price of a membership to the UI community.

Iowa Corn — a division of Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board — announced last week that it would partner with UI and Iowa State University athletics departments to promote corn products at collegiate sporting events across the state. While this is far from renaming Kinnick, it shows that firms from around the state are interested in sponsoring UI endeavors.

And the university is not new to the venture of naming rights partnerships. Back in 2007, the university debated whether to give the naming rights to the College of Public Health to Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield after it offered a $15 million contribution.

Colleges and universities across this country routinely name buildings and even whole departments after influential (or rich and generous) individuals; Two of the UI’s colleges — the Henry B. Tippie College of Business and the Carver College of Medicine — are named after highly regarded people who helped the university become what it is today. Now, we should not compare people to corporations in their value. But when a significant mutual benefit can be achieved by both parties, the endeavor must be considered.

If you think college departments are going too far with this moneymaking idea, then San Francisco’s City College is reaching the threshold of plausibility. Because of the state’s budget crisis, Chancellor Don Griffin has floated the idea of giving naming rights to businesses for sponsoring individual courses. Luckily, the UI does not need to go this far for its budget.

To avoid controversy for any university, including the UI, leadership must choose wisely and appropriately in its deliberations. If the university were to sell the naming rights to the Recreation and Wellness Center, a few things must be considered.

First, the state Board of Regents should hold a hearing to discuss the matter further with community leaders and UI leadership. Above all, the public should be heard on this matter. The wrong investors could shine a poor light on this community as well as the university.

Second, if the naming rights are allowed, the UI should look into using a local corporation or business for the naming rights. This would promote a bond between the two parties that would benefit local business and our community’s economy.

Finally, the university should make it clear to the students, staff, and faculty where the money will be headed. Our investment in the wellness will require money to come out of our pocket for the center to succeed. If the money will go to the university’s general fund, the UI should allow transparency in its dispersal.

The corporation or individual we choose must be one that reflects the quality and admiration that holds our university to the highest standards. This option should not be the end of our fundraising, but we would be naive not to make it a viable option. However, selling naming rights should not become commonplace at this university. The last thing we want is to embark on a commercialization hunt for budget money. But when done right, this process can be beneficial and rewarding for all involved. The nationwide recession should not make us greedy for extra dollars, but it should make us aware of our legal options. Selling the naming rights to the campus Recreation and Wellness Center should be one of those options.

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