So long as the state of California continues to grant the University of California insufficient funding and our campus continues to overcompensate high-level administrators, the public mission of the university will be compromised. Every time the campus enters into a partnership with private corporations, it opens itself up to a position where it must choose between badly needed funding and companies whose largest obligations are to themselves and their shareholders, not the people of California.
So when the campus signed the deal with Under Armour that will bring it millions, support more athletes than its current deal with Nike and provide greater opportunities to UC Berkeley students overall, it made the best out of a bad situation. Unlike the Nike partnership that it will replace, the deal with Under Armour will not only provide gear to Cal Athletics but will also provide uniforms for UC Berkeley’s 34 club sports teams, whose members have historically paid out of pocket for their uniforms. Including these groups increases the number of students supported by the campus and creates a better sense of inclusion for club athletes.
But none of this erases the fact that partnerships such as this are only necessary because of completely lackluster state funding and out-of-control administrative spending. The campus should support its student-athletes, both from Cal Athletics and club teams, without having to rely on corporate sponsorships.
The UC system as an institution is the largest force for upward mobility in the country and consists of some of the United States’ best and most accessible public universities. By shirking its responsibility to fund the university, the state has put UC Berkeley in a position where it must sell its soul to the highest bidder. And UC Berkeley’s feeble budget-balancing skills have only made its position worse, necessitating new revenue sources. This is unacceptable, particularly because the contract with Under Armour is for 10 years. Though there’s no evidence to suggest that Under Armour is an ethically unsound company right now, it’s disturbing that the campus has locked itself into an agreement with a private company whose only real oversight is the free market.
To centralize and expedite the soul-selling process, the University Partnership Program was recently created to oversee deals of this sort. But the UPP advisory committee only includes two students. If the campus is going to be crawling into the deepest pockets it can find, the least it can do is include more student voices in the conversation.
While the state and university incompetently bungle the budget, private partnerships will seem inevitable. But they aren’t. Politicians, administrators, faculty members and students will have to rise together to realize a future where California students have an exceptional public education.