January 10th, 2008

When Tradition and Naming Opportunities Collide

By Erin Stout
Chronicle of Higher Education

Stadiums, performing-arts centers, and other facilities on college campuses are increasingly bearing the names of corporations, which sometimes conflicts with traditions on campuses, according to an article in the News & Observer.

For example, at Wake Forest University, BB&T bought the rights to Groves Stadium (for an undisclosed amount of money) and holds the naming rights to the stadium for the next decade, though the Groves name will also be displayed throughout the facility.

Such arrangements bring up a host of interesting issues on campus. What is philanthropy and what is merely a contract? When is it appropriate to counter a longstanding tradition because a high bid has come through?

The article cites an example of a $500,000 donation from Boddie-Noell Enterprises to East Carolina University. University officials had to convince the Boddie family that a plaque showing appreciation for the gift to the East Carolina Heart Institute was appropriate.

“Barely mentioned was the fact that Boddie-Noell owns several restaurant chains, including Hardee’s and Texas Steakhouse & Saloon, and might be considered an unlikely candidate for naming rights to a heart institute,” the article says.

Other experts are worried that the corporate support the colleges are increasingly receiving may dampen the spirits of individual alumni benefactors, who may think their donations are no longer needed, especially when the naming rights have already been granted.

How are corporate ties changing philanthropy in higher education?

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