Business students embrace Revolution? A Modest proposal for South Bend and Notre Dame, Indiana

Suncycles Revolutions bike outside the Mendoza School of Business, Notre Dame July 2016

Working at Notre Dame allows for many funny and troubling paradoxes.  The latest surfaced yesterday, when I emerged from the pristine, air-conditioned halls of the MENDOZA COLLEGE OF BUSINESS en route to the classroom where I am teaching local high school students of Upward Bound.  What to my wondering eyes should appear but a couple bikes named “revolutions”! My heart soared in surprised fraternity, since MCOB students typically eschew radical politics. Yet a little digging revealed the sadder truth of capitalism as usual.

At first glance, naming a bike “revolutions” may appear to be an incredibly unimaginative idea: a vehicle with wheels that turn is named “turning around.” Marketers are rarely as stupid as they appear, however. (Well, there are some hilarious exceptions– who can forget how Chevrolet’s Nova bombed in Spanish-speaking countries!)

Which leads to the more sinister reality behind Sun Bicycles’ ploy.  With a price tag of $249.99, this bike is way out of reach for most of us. Yet it allows Finance students to tool around campus with the cred to wear their Che Guevara T-shirts.

C’est tout bénef, as the French would say (“It’s a win-win.”).  Except that it is based in a lie. As Che Guevara reminds us, “I would probably have more in common with a whale than with a bourgeois married couple employed at worthy institutions that I would wipe from the face of the earth if it was given to me to do so.”

A truly revolutionary bike would be free and available to all, like the many free bicycle sharing programs that have popped up in American cities over the last few years–notably in Austin, Boston, Chicago, D.C., New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

Given that 45 percent of South Bend households lives at or below the ALICE threshold (that is, they work full-time yet still make less than the $46,354 required for a family of four to survive here), our Indiana city would be a great place to try it.

How about it, Notre Dame? As the premier history of the university states, Notre Dame’s origins lie in the most radical kind of sharing—teaching the poor immigrant kids of South Bend and the local Potawatami tribe how to read and learn a trade. Why not share the university’s growing wealth with the impoverished youth of South Bend?  Creating a ride-sharing program like the ones above could do wonders for Town / Gown relations, and might lead to a much greater influx of socio-economic and racial diversity onto the campus. Unless that would be too revolutionary…

In the name of free information-sharing, here is the definition of “revolution” for you, copied from the fee-based, online Oxford English Dictionary (OED).  (apologies for the formatting)

revolution.  n.  Pronunciation:  Brit.  /ˌrɛvəˈl(j)uːʃn/ , U.S.  /ˌrɛvəˈluʃ(ə)n/

1.Circular movement.Astron.

  1. The apparent movement of the sun, a constellation, the firmament, etc., around the earth; the movement of a planet, moon, satellite, etc., in a circular or elliptical course round another, or about a centre of mass; (now esp.) a single circuit of this kind.
  2. The time taken for a celestial object or a point on the celestial sphere to make one complete circuit in movement of this kind; an orbital period. Now rare.

†3. A convolution; a twist, a turn; a loop. Obs.

3. †a. The action of turning or revolving something. Obs.

b. The action or an act of moving in a circular course or around some point; a completed cycle of motion of this kind, a circuit. Also fig. Cf. sense 5.

4.

a. Cyclical recurrence, esp. of a point or period of time; the passing or duration of a (usu. recurring) period of time (as a year, a season, etc.). †by revolution, with the passing of time; in due course.

†b. A recurring period of time, a cycle; an epoch. Obs.

†c. The recurrence or repetition of a day, event, task, etc.; an anniversary. Obs.

5.

  1. Geom. Rotation of a plane figure about an axis; spec. a single complete rotation of such a figure, used in generating a solid figure.

axis, ellipsoid, hyperboloid, paraboloid, solid of revolution: see the first element.

  1. gen. Movement of a wheel, fan, etc. around an axis or centre; rotation.
  2. Astron. Rotation of a planet or other celestial object about its axis; esp. a single complete rotation of this kind; (also) the time taken for such a rotation.
  3. A single act of rotation round an axis or centre; a rotation.
  4. In pl. Revolutions or turns per minute (or per second), esp. as a measure of the rate of working of an engine.
  5. In Lurianic Kabbalah: one of a series of twelve lives possessed by each human soul. Also, in wider use: a reincarnation of the soul. Now hist.

The 17th cent. quots. relate to a schism in early Quakerism precipitated by Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont and George Keith.

6. Change, upheaval.

7.

  1. Alteration, change; upheaval; reversal of fortune.
  2. As a count noun: an alteration, a change; esp. a dramatic or wide-reaching change in conditions, the state of affairs, etc.
  3. Geol. An episode of crustal change affecting a whole region, esp. a mountain-building episode. From 19th cent. freq. with distinguishing word.

Appalachian revolution: see Appalachian adj. 3.

8.

  1. Overthrow of an established government or social order by those previously subject to it; forcible substitution of a new form of government. In early use also: rebellion.
  2. As a count noun.
  3. In Marxist theory: the violent overthrow of the ruling class and the seizure of power through control of the means of production by a class to whom such control was previously denied; the historically inevitable transition from one system of production to another and the political change which ensues, leading to the eventual triumph of Communism (communism n. 2b). Hence: an impending radical reformation of society, which will inevitably take place at some point in the future. Freq. with the. Also continuing, continuous, uninterrupted revolution, designating the concept of permanent revolution (cf. permanent revolution n.).

3 thoughts on “Business students embrace Revolution? A Modest proposal for South Bend and Notre Dame, Indiana

  1. Dear Julia,

    As it happens, yesterday South Bend announced it is studying a bike share program:
    http://wsbt.com/news/local/south-bend-adding-bike-share-program

    But there are some caveats:
    The bike share programs you linked to in your post are not free. You pay a membership fee and then varying hourly rates (many have a system where you can use a bike free for a half hour but only after paying membership). Cities hire a company that maintains the system and bikes. So no escaping capitalism.

    Moreover, bike shares are aimed more at people who live/work in high density areas. You won’t find stands of bikes in residential neighborhoods, so these programs don’t really serve low-income residents. This isn’t discriminatory–it’s just that there isn’t enough use in lower-density residential areas regardless of income.

    A better option for low-income people would be a bike cooperative. These typically recycle bikes and sell them for under $50 (sometimes free). Someone who owns a bike can ride it wherever they live, work, or shop. This could be a project for our students. Many colleges have them, though they are mainly aimed at providing bikes for students. That’s not a bad thing. Every year our students leave behind 500+ bikes; it would be good to recycle them.

    As for the Revolution bicycle. I don’t know anything about that company and its motives for naming them; it is as you suggest probably just a marketing ploy. But is $250 really “way out of the reach of most of us?” That’s half the price of an iphone, and I see an awful lot of “us” using them. In truth, 250 is very cheap for a bicycle. You can get one for 100 at Walmart but it will be a pretty lousy bike.

    all best,
    Chris

    1. Super information, Chris! Thanks for filling in readers with the back-story about progress here in Indiana.
      I know, about the price, my comments on the blog are meant to provoke, so they sometimes exaggerate a bit!
      Thanks again for the info.
      Julia

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