Free Swag for Freshmen Is a Waste

Have you ever seen or heard something that sincerely made you stop in your tracks? Like, literally, walking along, minding your own business, maybe talking with a friend, and you come across something that so fills you with incredulity that you have to stop walking and say, “pardon me?”

It happened to me last week, and I had to write about it. I had to tell you, dear readers.

Allow me to preface by saying that, if you’re an incoming freshman, you probably know what I’m talking about, but you probably won’t understand why it’s such a big deal to me.

So, onto the main event. Last week, I was walking along Ring Road toward the Student Center, and I went around the Bookstore, instead of through it, like I usually do. In the small building adjacent to the bookstore, I spy a few people in line at some portable tables, and a sign that says “Freshmen Sweatshirts.”

I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but later on I was talking to a first-year friend of mine, and asked her about the sweatshirts. Her response:

“Oh yeah,” she said. “They told us about that at the Dean’s Welcome. All incoming freshmen and transfer students are entitled to a free sweatshirt, as long as they go to that line in the first week of fall quarter.”

My jaw dropped. My face fell. My mind exploded.

Free sweatshirts? I know what you’re thinking: Ryan, you’re overreacting. They’re just sweatshirts. They were probably surplus from the Bookstore. Joke’s on you, critic. That was the first thing I asked her.

“Nope,” she says. “I haven’t seen any of them at the Bookstore. And they have a bunch of different styles.”

So, in my righteous fury, I set forth to get to the bottom of this.

Because, in case you’ve forgotten what the state of things are, the UC system is in a massive budget crisis. Tuition and fees of all kind are rising dramatically with each quarter, and more and more employees are being laid off. Each year, less and less students are being accepted into the university, and of those being accepted, fewer and fewer can actually afford to attend.

My tuition was over $4,000 this quarter, and I get offered no financial aid.

In the wake of all that, let’s re-examine the sweatshirt situation, shall we? Now, I couldn’t find any data on the actual distribution of the sweatshirts (except for a few excited freshmen Tumblr posts), so all of the data I have compiled is approximate.

The statistics on amounts of students is only released at the end of the year, but UC Irvine admitted 20,000 applicants last year, and let’s assume that half of those accepted. So, that means that UCI had to make ready at least 10,000 sweatshirts (probably more, unless students were asked to give the school their shirt size). I’ve looked at a couple of websites, and, when dealing with numbers that big, it would cost approximately $20 per sweatshirt. When we multiply 20 by 10,000, we get 200,000. $200,000 for free sweatshirts. Let’s divide $200,000 by $4,000, and you get 500. That’s 500 quarters worth of tuition spent on free sweatshirts.

I hope you’re starting to get the picture, because that’s not the only frivolous spending I’m seeing in these times of crisis. Apparently the Student Center was in need of a “Hyperwall” consisting of 20 high-definition televisions that only plays a 15-minute loop of silly advertisements promoting the school.

Along with the Hyperwall, the Student Center was also graced with the “Global Viewpoint Lounge,” which has all new tables, chairs, televisions and other monitors.  And to top off the cake, the upper walls of the Student Center will be featuring three new clocks, showing time in various parts of the world (to emphasize our globalization and singular culture). I don’t have the numbers on those, but it must’ve cost a pretty penny.

Obviously, I’m not a student regent. I’m not involved in student government, and I haven’t been able to talk to anyone in administration. I’ve done my best to compile this data with the information available to anyone with Internet access, and what I see makes free sweatshirts look like a local fundraiser.

At every turn, the UC administration is flagrantly spending money on unnecessary trimmings to improve their ethos, while they cut faculty, raise tuition and kill valuable student programs.

The goal of the University of California was to give education to everyone who needed it, regardless of income, and this is a slap in the face to that ideal.

Ryan Cady is a second-year psychology major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.