Colleges Are Selling Branded PPE Because of Course They Are

They may not have a safe back-to-school plan, but darned if they’ll miss this branding opportunity

Rainesford Stauffer
GEN
Published in
5 min readJul 24, 2020

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Photo: Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Student safety has become increasingly available for purchase in recent years. From pepper sprays to bulletproof backpacks popping up in Crayola-colored back-to-school store displays, it’s easier to sell a product that feigns safety than to enact policies that might actually provide it. And with the Covid-19 pandemic, some colleges and universities are marketing a branding gimmick in the face of a major problem.

Only months after colleges across the country asked their students to move out of dorms and onto Zoom, this fall, schools like the University of Arizona, Princeton, Georgia Tech, and countless others are selling branded personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of the fall return to half-open campuses — because nothing says “back-to-school in a deadly pandemic” quite like school-spirit hand sanitizer.

To be clear, masks work, and everyone should be wearing them (collegiate colors and logos optional). If themed PPE is what convinces some people to mask up, that’s objectively a good thing. But it’s worth noting that Covid-19 cases are spiking in young adults, and not every student has a “traditional” collegiate experience…

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Rainesford Stauffer
GEN
Writer for

Author of An Ordinary Age, out 5/4/2021. Freelance writer. Kentuckian.