The right donor could buy the naming rights to [Your Name Here] University of Illinois
The University of Illinois has sold the naming rights to its 50-year old sports and entertainment arena to State Farm Insurance. Effective immediately and for the next 30 years, the building that has always been called Assembly Hall will be known as the State Farm® Center. State Farm will pay $60 million for its product placement coup, though the premium could go up if the company fails to maintain a B+ average.
But why stop there? Considering that the former Illinois governor tried to sell a vacant Senate seat, maybe the University of Illinois could convince a donor to put their name on the entire school. Imagine the [Your Name Here] University of Illinois. After all, the National College of Education became National Louis University when a donor named Louis coughed up a big enough check. To quote the former governor, "It's %&#@in' golden!"
With state and federal support for higher education drying up and tuition at record highs, more and more universities are turning to private individuals and corporate donors to pay the bills. Northwestern has its Dow Chemical Company Research Professorship in Chemistry, and Cambridge has a Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering. Florida State has an Arthur Andersen Professor of Accounting. And the University of Texas boasts both the Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Hall.
Called Assembly Hall for 50 years, the home of Illinois basketball and visiting Broadway shows is now the State Farm Center.
Thanks to the privatization begun in the Thatcher era, Oxford University, which goes back to the 12th century and boasts such ancient and honorable titles as Regius Professor of Divinity, and where the architect Christopher Wren was the Savilian Professor of Astronomy, now has a Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication. And Cambridge, whose Lucasian Chairs in Mathematics have been held by Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage, and Stephen Hawking, now has a Marks & Spencer Professor of Farm Animal Health, Food Science, and Food Safety.
The University of Illinois may be coming late to the naming rights auction, so to help it play catch-up, the Web of Language is holding a naming rights contest. Just hit the “add comment” link at the bottom of the page to send in your suggestions for the most appropriately ironic names for university buildings, programs, and endowed professorships.
To get you in the mood, I’ve assumed my own chair, the Anonymous Professor of Onomastics, in order bring you the following suggestions:
One reader of a tweet I posted on corporate naming rights thought that State Farm should have named the Morrow Plots instead of the Assembly Hall. For only $40 million, the Morrow Plots, the oldest experimental agronomy field in the United States, could become the State Farm State Farm.
The name of the Undergraduate Library, located right next to the Morrow Plots, is also for sale. I think the Amazon Dot Com Library should be worth a cool $100 million (no tax, and free shipping on orders over $25).
My guess is that when Amazon puts its name on the building, it will immediately digitize the library’s collection to create the Amazon Library Kindle Edition: owning the DRM to the university’s 12 million books and millions of other records will be more lucrative since that way Amazon can control who gets to enter both the new, virtual library, and the old, brick and mortar one, what library patrons can do while they’re in the stacks, and what penalties they may incur if they try to leave.
Pearson, which calls itself “the world’s leading learning company,” could put its name on the 100-year-old English Building. That would set the giant textbook publisher back $78 million (new), or only $54 million (used), but they could recoup some of the cost by selling the building back at the end of the semester.
Surely the university could secure substantial donations for naming
The Orkin Department of Entomology
The Subway Food Science and Human Nutrition Laboratory
The USEnglish Program in Latino/Latina Studies
The Republican National Committee Institute for the Study of Climate Change
The Pinkerton College of Labor Relations
The Halliburton Center for Conflict Resolution
Of course there are some donors who would want their naming rights to reflect a well-known person, like Oxford’s Gladstone Professor of Government (Oxford has no Chamberlain Professor of Diplomacy). The dorms already have a Timothy Leary Psychopharmacology Lounge, but see what you can add to this list:
The Salvador Dali Professor of Horology
The Lucius Malfoy Professor of Metaphysical Chemistry
The Ted Stevens Computer Engineering Center
The John Cage Acoustics Research Institute
Washington State University has its Taco Bell Distinguished Professor in Hospitality Business Management. Why not a Norman Bates Professor of Hotel and Taxidermy Management? And Oxford has a Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature, but what about endowing the Pierre Laval Centre for Surrender Studies?
You may have noticed that the Web of Language has no corporate sponsor and is not cluttered with ads. But with the university selling off its property to the highest bidder, that too could change: imagine your reading experience if the Web of Language, sponsor-free for the past 6 years, were to become the FoxNews™ Web of Language?
OK, that was scary. But anyway, Web of Language readers, now it’s your turn. Click that “Add Comment” and send in your suggestions for new ways the university can sell itself and everything it stands for to the highest bidder. We’ll be right back, after these messages. . . .