With all the “occupy” protests and recent griping at the University of Saskatchewan about corporate influence on post-secondary education, I have become concerned.
Last spring, I expressed feelings about Enbridge being asked by some to withdraw its sponsorship from a national arts exhibition by a few protesters in the arts. In our society, thank goodness, there will always be the right to voice our opinions without fear. I believe this is right, as we all do.
But when it comes to misinformation and failure of protest groups to work within the framework of civilized society, I become concerned. When they fail to understand the economic impact, I become concerned. The call for sponsorship monies or donations of “energy companies” to be rejected on the grounds that they have a harmful impact on students and exercise influence as such is going too far. Funding of homeless people, revenues to support education and research, and support of minor sports by brands through sponsorship is critical. The jet fuel and automobile gasoline to travel to protests, the plastic in the tents to “occupy” public land, the fuel for heating, and so much more come from those organizations that are being protested against. School curriculum (elementary, secondary, and post-secondary) is not being defined or constrained by corporate sponsorship dollars. Instead, these dollars provide enhanced research and better education for our youth.
I worry that the “hand that feeds” is being bitten. The protesters need to look beyond the superficial and idealistic world they want to live in and recognize the difference between what is idealistic and what is realistic. Each day, I work with organizations seeking money through corporate sponsorship to ensure women are treated fairly here at home and throughout the world, that children’s athletics are available to fight obesity issues in our society, that we are blessed with the arts in all our communities, and that education at all levels can be delivered in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible to ensure bright minds and bright futures. These enhancements do not come from higher tax dollars alone. They do not come from hopes and dreams. They come, in part, from corporate sponsorships and contributions.
I also work each day with brands that support the arts, homeless people, youth, health care, and education. They want to make a difference. They care about the communities in which they work and live. They support these things to ensure that, one day, we will not have to grow moustaches in November, that homelessness will not be an issue, that the arts can thrive, and that the best students possible will rise to the top of our educational ladder without their socioeconomic background being a determining factor, while at the same time ensuring all our youth have access to top notch education from kindergarten onward. They also ensure that our youth have access to sports. That is why these companies invest in the community. They know that a healthy community fosters healthy companies. And yes, it is about healthy profitable companies. Because if companies are not profitable, they cannot provide the billions of dollars they contribute annually to ensure that the arts are here to stay, that homelessness becomes a choice and not a situation, that walks and runs for health causes are no longer needed, and that students can thrive in a well-balanced and highly enriched learning environment.