SIMON BAJKOWSKI doesn’t care about dodgy sponorship, and nor should you.
I’ve had enough. I can no longer enjoy my Nestlé in peace. Nor can I listen to Cam FM with a completely clear conscience. I can’t even read The Tab without a flicker of guilt, if a recent investigation is to be believed. Welcome to Cambridge, an elite place of learning where you can no longer have a break if it includes having a KitKat, apparently.
The start of this term has been an angry one, with ranting specifically directed at corporate sponsorship within the university. After a furore a few years ago over colleges investing “unethically” in the arms industry, anger has now turned to the student body. In case anyone was unaware of the TCS expose on The Tab, some members of this newspaper have apparently been getting in to Cindies for free occasionally. With outrage like this, heaven forbid what kind of shitstorm would go down if The Tab happened to strike up an advertising deal with a well known oil and gas company.
Similarly, Cam FM has been attacked for a recent sponsorship deal with Nestlé. The ethics card has been predictably played by those who don’t like the fact that they will presumably never be able to tune in to another show for fear of being subliminally told to exploit the Third World. Admittedly, Nestlé has courted its fair share of controversy in the past. Scandals over giving infant formula to the developing world, and destroying the rainforest through using palm oil have helped smear its reputation with a lot of people. But does this mean that a student radio station should turn down a lucrative sponsorship contract in the light of past wrongs?
It isn’t surprising that many of these whiners happen to go to Cambridge. With its opinionated students, Cambridge is no exception to the rule that universities are centres of mass debate. Even when bottles of wine don’t lead to heated ‘serious’ debates on capital punishment or which drug is the most addictive, we spend our days bitching about habitual life.
Whether it’s idiotic tourists not getting out of the bloody way when we’re trying to tear the wrong way up Trinity Street on our bikes at weekends, or the Student Loans Company running about as smoothly as Prince Philip at a racial equality meeting, there is always something to rant about. Moaning is part of the fabric of uni life, so an ethically dubious organisation gives more ammunition than most to fuel another burst of ire.
But why all this beef? In comparison to the latest in-college sex scandal, nobody actually cares about the ethics of a multi-national corporation like Nestlé. Obviously, this is not to brush scandal under the carpet. If individuals or companies have been involved in illegal or ethically irresponsible activity, they deserve to be exposed and punished. But even then, the actions of one company need not tarnish the reputation of every single organisation affiliated with them. When it comes down to it, I still want my Dairy Milk after hall, even if it does contribute to world poverty. Bitching and moaning about activity that is on such a different plane to University life is completely pointless.
Will loudly complaining to Cam FM actually do anything then? Probably not. With all respect to them, I doubt that Nestlé beat off fierce competition from Steve Jobbs and Bill Gates to secure a sponsorship deal with this student radio group. Equally, I am not aware of any Cam FM members who have been inspired enough from this deal to get themselves a travel grant to go and bulldoze the Amazon this winter.
The bottom line is that it is really not something to get worked up over. Stripped to a plainly commercial level, they are a hugely successful, global brand and thus a pretty damn good sponsor for Cam FM to have, and this matters more. University is meant to gear us for the real working world, and a glance out of the bubble proves to us that conscience and business will occasionally clash.
In the summer of 2006, Manchester United Football Club turned down a sponsorship deal with the internet casino group Mansion, as they were uneasy about being openly linked with a gaming company. Tottenham Hotspur stepped in almost instantly and brokered a deal with them, and nobody batted an eyelid. If the deal had been with Fritzl’s Basement Security, condemnation may well have been more forthcoming, but ethical and moral issues are more often than not overlooked in the real world.
To borrow from sport again, FC Barcelona currently have UNICEF on their shirts and donate money to the charity each year. But then they were named in July as the 6th most indebted football club in the world, with a deficit of £273 million pounds, so should they still be lauded for their stance? I don’t approve of Karren Brady on The Apprentice, but that’s less to do with the cloud over her name in business from the dubious goings-on at Birmingham City FC, and more to do with the fact that its only Week 2 and she’s already banging on about being a beacon for women everywhere blah blah blah. You’re not Margaret and you never will be. And she spells her name like a fuckwit. These are the issues that students care about, so let’s not mess about being pretentious.
With this in mind, the best and easiest thing to do is to just accept that Nestlé are attempting to re-brand, flick on Cam FM, and have a KitKat.