September 13, 2000

Arts Quad Ford Display Irks Cornell Faculty, Students

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As most corporate participants in the University Career Fair began preparing tables in the Field House to recruit future employees early yesterday, seven Ford automobiles rolled across the grass of the Arts Quad and came to rest before the statue of Andrew Dickson White.

The Ford Motor Company has in past years displayed its cars on the Engineering Quad to catch the interest of students passing by who may then be encouraged to visit the Ford table at the Career Fair.

This year for a change, Ford moved the exhibit to the front of Goldwin Smith Hall in order to attract a wider range of students rather than just engineers, according to Mark Savage of University career services. Access to the Engineering Quad is also severely restricted this year because of construction, leaving Ford to find a new location for its promotional display.

“Ford was interested in appealing to students across the campus,” Savage said, explaining that a greater range of people would see the cars on the Arts Quad.

Ford brought Explorers and Jaguars among other models from a local dealership to attract interest in the company. The vehicles, however, raised the ire — not the delight — of many who were drawn to criticize the display.

“It just seems like they are selling a bunch of cars right out here on the Arts Quad,” said Richard L. Feldman ’69, academic director of modern languages.

“It looks like a car sales lot,” he said.

The event, sanctioned by the University, follows a flurry of negative attention brought upon the company by its relationship with Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., the tire recalls affecting millions of customers and the safety concerns arising from current federal investigations.

U.S. Senate and House committees heard testimony and requested documents yesterday that may help investigators ascertain the time when Ford and Firestone became aware of the manufacturers’ safety concerns. Defective products have led to the recent deaths of numerous Ford automobile drivers.

“I find it shocking, considering the testimony that was given [yesterday], that Cornell students are being sold the image of a snazzy red automobile with Firestone Wilderness tires,” said Prof. Susan Buck-Morss, government.

Calling into question the authorities that permitted Ford’s presence on campus yesterday, some passerby’s like Buck-Morss wondered just what message the University was sending by featuring the automobile and tire companies for all to see amidst federal investigations.

Under fire from critics, Ford representatives maintained that the publicity was not related to Ford’s safety issues.

“We are actually just trying to get people excited about the products we work on,” said Ryan McGee ’97, Ford product engineer.

Subject to the standard approval process for such an event, Ford’s plan for the display came before various deans and administrators, all of whom approved the event, according to Savage. However, Savage declined to identify the specific offices on campus to which Ford’s vehicle display was presented for approval.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch