University online fundraising taken to an extreme

Howard Lake | 29 November 2004 | News

The University of Exeter, which is facing an increased projected deficit of £4.46 million this year, was briefly for sale online last week at eBay. Needless to say, it was a prank: some students at the university carried it out in protest against proposed cuts related to the deficit.

By the time that eBay removed the listing for violating its terms and conditions, the for sale page had been visited 4,000 times and bids had reached £10 million, no doubt ratcheted up by the protesting students.

According to a contributor to the UCL Union’s online discussion forum, the sale notice read:

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“University for sale. This university is in bad condition, urgently needing repairs. It has a capacity of around 10,000 students but no Chemistry, Music or Italian departments. Several not-so-careful owners. Offers start at the price of your degree.

“Bonus offer: if the auction reaches £3,000,000 a year then you can get the Vice-Chancellor, Steve Smith, thrown in.”

The action, which no doubt the university authorities did not find amusing, again emphasises the need for voluntary organisations to ensure that their name and reptutation are not misused online. Voluntary organisations are certainly not immune from being the objects of online campaigns and, in worse cases, online libel or fraud.