Column: Selling naming rights sends wrong message

The Newtonite

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The naming rights of important locations in the building, such as the auditorium, might be sold in order to raise money for technology.

by Connor Vasu

Welcome to Brand Name® High, an over-commercialized high school where money and technology are most important.

Next year, this school and South might become Brand Name® High because the naming rights of classrooms, hallways and parts of these two schools will be sold to businesses, alumni and individuals, according to a proposal by the Newton Schools Foundations that has yet to pass through Newton’s Board of Aldermen. The majority of the money, up to $5.7 million, is slated to go towards new technology in the Newton Public Schools.

In a Newton Tab online poll, 60 percent of voters support the initiative and 40 percent disagree with it.

Selling the naming rights of this school is tempting, but it is a bad idea.

It seems like almost every professional stadium is named after a business. For example, the TD Garden is home to the Celtics and Gillette Stadium is home to the Patriots. These stadiums have these names because businesses paid for them.

Some high schools, such as Gloucester, have named their athletic venues after companies in exchange for money, according to a recent Boston Globe article.

But branding the school brings up moral dilemmas. Lasker Auditorium was named after Henry Lasker, a music teacher at this school for over 40 years. Wealthy alumni naming parts of the building after themselves tells students that alumni with the deepest pockets are the most important, which is false.

This school should refrain from selling its naming rights to the highest bidder. Because if students see that every classroom has a brand name outside of it, they will soon learn that commercialization reigns and that money is all important.

Also, schools are always going to need new technology because technology is an operating expense. This annual expense should be paid for in the budget, not through unsustainable outside sources.

Furthermore, the technology purchased with the naming rights will likely become irrelevant after a few years. To pay for technology upgrades, the NPS would have to either raise taxes or go through another round of naming rights.

So instead of trying to close the budget with one-time naming rights, the city should try to close it with taxes. Although unpopular, taxation will be better for the schools in the long run.

The message the Newton Schools’ Foundation is sending is everything can be bought, and that is not a message we should support, even for all the technology in the world.

To see the letter to the editor written in response to this column, click here.