UC Berkeley Decides Public Education Not Good for Making Money 

Coping with budget cuts, university officials solicit corporate sponsorships, sell billboard space during lectures, and downsize the president's infinity pool.

Coping with a $115.5 million shortfall in the next two years and another raise in student tuition, UC regents this week adopted drastic fund-raising and cost-cutting decisions that they say will help the school system move toward a more fiscally stable future. Among the new plans: University officials are now soliciting corporate sponsorships, selling advertising space during lectures, and amending the renovation plans for the UC president's mansion. So far, American Apparel has signed on as UC Berkeley's official clothier.

Many female students are said to be really excited about the deal with American Apparel. Starting this summer, they're all getting the new ultra-micro-mini miniskirt. But in lieu of the "skirt lifter" lurking around south campus, they'll also get a complimentary pair of leggings, which are available in cotton/Lycra, latex, and spandex fabrics. "I think this will really improve the school's style," enthused sophomore Amber Littleton, on her way to class in the rhetoric department. As part of the deal, Fridays have been christened "Leotards Are Clothing, Too" days. Any student wearing the one-piece will get a voucher good for one free sock or a 5 percent discount on a pair of oversized 1980s sunglasses. Male students will get very low-cut V-neck T-shirts and a Members Only jacket emblazoned with the Cal logo.

American Apparel paid the university $15 million for the exclusive right to outfit the students. Secretary to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Elaine Pouffé, said the move wasn't entirely opportunistic; the company's tri-blend fabric with polyester is warmer than 100-percent cotton and will thereby cut down on heating costs. "This is a step toward combating global warming," Pouffé said.

Not everyone on campus is thrilled with the official clothier, however. About twelve students from the molecular and cell biology department have staged a protest in the Valley Life Sciences Building. "The polyester fibers could catch fire in the lab," noted senior Kevin Lee, who was on day three of a Red Bull-only hunger strike. "I'm sticking to the fleece pullover I got at the TED conference." However, Lee added, he wouldn't mind getting one of American Apparel's new fanny packs.

Some protesters have taken over an oak tree outside of Wheeler Hall, where they've set up a makeshift tent, hung signs, and chanted slogans during lunchtime. One protester, a Berkeley resident who is not a student at the school and who wished to remain anonymous on account of being spied on by the US government, said he was upset about the university's decision because it contributes to the city's "visual pollution." "Berkeley is home to the Free Speech Movement," he said. "Forty years ago it was the war in Vietnam. Today, it's the war against bad fashion."

Student athletes were also upset because the company's mandated jerseys are cut entirely too small to allow free range of movement. "My arms are bursting out of my sleeves," said football player Harry Power. "I can't breathe."

In other sponsorship news, naming rights have been sold to the Haas School of Business, which will be rebranded the Google Center of Commerce. A new major, "How to Make YouTube Profitable," has also just been created, and any student who figures it out will automatically graduate, get a job with the company, and receive a complimentary Volkswagen New Beetle.

The school has also started selling Google pop-up ads, which are being inserted every five minutes in PowerPoint presentations. School officials said they aren't yet clear on what effect this might have on the learning process, but they're confident that a generation of students weaned on video games will adjust.

Students and faculty aren't the only ones affected by the new decisions. The new budget also shifts away funds from the $567 million renovation project of the UC president's Berkeley Hills mansion, which is seen as critical in luring top-notch faculty to the school. The mansion was to include an Olympic-size infinity pool, outdoor grill, and state-of-the-art solar-paneled teepee for the president's new passion for Bikram Yoga, said a source close to the project. The mansion will now have only a kiddie-size infinity pool, but the president has said the infinity component is key to keeping faculty members like Boalt law professor John Yoo happy. "He likes to practice waterboarding on his students when they get anything less than a B+," said the source. "Plus, Stanford has a Slip-N-Slide."

Among the other cost-cutting moves: UC administrative compensation packages will no longer exceed $500,000 or include lifetime memberships to the Berkeley Tennis Club. Campus Segways will be replaced by golf carts powered by BP. "These may be less efficient, but they're way less dorky," admitted campus transportation manager Jim Butterworthy. The university also has entered an exclusive contract with Food Not Bombs to cater department luncheons.

Student groups, citing a lack of funds from the ASUC, are coming up with their own fund-raising methods. Campus religious groups have banded together to start a fee-based singles dating service called MatchMadeInHeaven.berkeley.edu. Students who protested Panda Express have written letters of apology and are asking for the company to reconsider and please serve them mediocre Chinese food. "That would be way rad," said freshmen Neil Cooper.

UC officials have also signed on to a new reality show called Who Wants a Degree? in which high school seniors compete for a slot in the freshman class. Participants are required to have a 4.3 GPA and a minimum 700 SAT average, and they must woo admissions officers with lattes from Cafe Strada and valet parking. Finalists must endure riding the 51 bus every weekday without going insane.

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