The season finale of Girls gave people in the Iowa City area something to look forward to: more exposure for the University of Iowa. Spoiler alert after the jump.
Hannah's been accepted into the Writers' Workshop, and that means she's leaving New York and coming over to my neck of the woods. Living and learning in Iowa City, the University of Iowa's decision to say no to letting filming take place on campus appears shortsighted to me.
The University cites "potential disruption to campus" as its reason for denying the request. But the University of Iowa is a Big 10 school. Anybody who lives in the area can tell you that campus gets pretty disrupted on game days, so it's not like the campus community isn't used to disruption.
Whatever your opinion of Girls, the fact is that the University would stand to make some money for the use of its facilities. Local businesses would see profit bump as well in the short term, potentially also being featured on the show should Hannah want to, I don't know, go out to eat. That's a thing people do, after all.
But the University administration would never sully the school's pristine reputation by making deals with corporate entities and television shows. We can't have that HBO money coming in. It's corporate and dirty, and not befitting of a University in a community like Iowa City which prides itself on its liberalism. The University of Iowa holds itself to a high standard, and its money comes from only the right kind of sources - sources like Budweiser. We're the #1 party school in the country, after all. There's an image to maintain.
Indeed, rather than a disruption, this would prove to be an opportunity for the University. We have a sizeable film studies program, including an MFA in film. What better opportunity for our film students than to potentially get some work on a major television production?
Even if Girls didn't result in much money coming to the University directly, there's no question of the show raising the profile of the University at large and the Writers' Workshop specifically. The University has a high profile, but it obviously seeks continually to keep raising that profile. And there are plenty of people who aren't writers and aren't football fans who might watch Girls. And giving the University a profile at all among them, those who otherwise have no prior conception of the University, is a good strategy.
Film students who get a chance to work on the show get a leg up in hiring gigs down the line, which boosts the University's placement rates. The Writers' Workshop might receive some donations, or better yet a bump in applications. Given that they have a tight cap on admissions, more applications ultimately means more application fee money coming to the Workshop. It wouldn't be a huge bump, but any money above the expected is always welcome.
The University's argument about disruption is superficially plausible, but that's about it. What's the real reason? Given previous University stances, it might be that the University of Iowa is buying fully into the corporatization of the University and the abandonment of the academic as the purpose of the university as an institution. Girls is an inappropriate avenue for publicity not because it will disrupt campus but because it will disrupt campus without being sports. Only sports and sports-related activities like tailgating at 8:30 in the morning are acceptable here. Girls would would bring attention to the University, but purely to the school's academic activities and not to sports at all. We can partner with Budweiser because it helps out the football team, but partnering with Girls to bring attention to our most famous academic program. Well, that's just not in the best interest of the University.
Header by Dan Steinberg/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images