Obama’s Presidency Presents a Profit Scheme for Oxy

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Author: Tyler Kearn

What’s a really bad pun that you can buy at the bookstore for $10.95? Answer: a baby diaper cover that says “CHANGE WE NEED.” You can buy these diaper covers in your choice of white on black or black on white, and in sizes ranging from “6 months” to “18 months”. They are just one item of many that the bookstore is selling as “BarOxyWear”—another bad joke—which is a whole range of merchandise that celebrates Oxy’s most famous alum becoming the 44th President of the United States and emphasizes the connection between Oxy and Obama as much as the school credibly can.

With BarOxyWear, Oxy is jumping on the bandwagon of people and groups trying to profiteer off of Obama’s election. We are joining the likes of the people who are selling commemorative Obama coins, or trying to sell copies of the L.A. Times issue from the morning after the election. Just as people are trying to sell “Barack Obama as the first black President” merchandise to African American communities, the bookstore is trying to sell “Obama as an Oxy alum” items to the Oxy community, and they seem to be extraordinarily successful at it to boot.

The bookstore is selling everything from hats to mugs to swiveling key chains to clothing ranging from tank tops to zippered sweatshirts. Apparently, there has been an overwhelmingly positive response from alumni and students to the gear, which does whatever it can to tie Obama to Oxy. This includes a shirt that does its best to compare Thorne Hall to the White House and a shirt that quotes Professor Derek Shearer saying that “everything Barack needs to know as President, he learned at Oxy.” (Whether that quote is at all fair is a whole discussion in and of itself). It might be questionable to call Barack Obama an alumnus or label him “Class of ’83” when he never graduated from Oxy—and some of the BarOxyWear is definitely stretching it even further than that—but for the bookstore, it sure is profitable.

Interestingly, Columbia University, where Barack Obama did actually graduate from, hasn’t felt the need to come up with “Columbama Wear” of their own. A search of their bookstore’s website for Obama’s name reveals only his two books—no sweatshirts, key chains, hats, or diaper covers. Maybe Columbia doesn’t want to (or need to) profiteer off of Obama.

Then again, they might be blowing a great opportunity. It’s tough to be too hard on BarOxyWear when, after all, it is making money for a cash-strapped Oxy, getting alumni reinvested in their alma mater, and giving students something of which to be proud.

Maybe what disturbs me is the way that BarOxyWear is aiming to take our pride of our President and our pride in our school and bottle it to get us to buy crap we can put on our desk or in our closet. It’s American consumerism at its best.Or maybe it’s just that they’re selling diaper covers. Seriously—is anyone actually buying those?

Tyler Kearn is a junior Economics major. He can be reached at tkearn@oxy.edu.

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