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The Blue & Gray Press | May 22, 2018

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Student Senate Votes to Remove Banners

By RITA DANIEL

The Executive Cabinet of the Student Government Association (SGA) passed a motion from the Student Senate last week to remove the advertising banners from Campus Walk.

The banners in question portray an image of the University of Mary Washington that the Student Senate did not find flattering, said Jeremy Thompson, senior history and political science major and SGA President.

As SGA president, Thompson cannot cast a vote in Senate, but was present at the Oct. 24 meeting when the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the banners’ removal.

The Executive Cabinet passed the motion on Oct. 31 in a seven-to-one vote, with one member abstaining. The only vote in favor of keeping the banners came from Sean Simons, junior political science and political communications major and Legislative Action Committee Chair.

“I voted against the motion because in addition to being unnecessarily harsh, it did not offer any long-term solution to fix the underlining problem,” said Simons.

Thomas Pacheco, junior political science and philosophy double major and student Senator of the UMW Apartments wrote and initiated the official Senate motion. The motion stated, “These advertisements have slogans that reflect poorly on Mary Washington and hurt the institution’s credibility.”

The banners feature UMW students in various poses with different slogans accompanying. One banner outside Lee Hall reads, “[no apologies] It’s how I think,” while another located in front of George Washington Hall says, “Welcome to the mind show.” Others state, “Change your mind” and “A yes brainer.”

Now that the executive cabinet has accepted the Senate’s motion, the Student Senate must decide how to fix the problem.

Robert Belcourt, senior political science and Asian studies major, and president of the Student Senate, as well as vice president of the SGA, talked to Dean Cedric Rucker, SGA advisor, this past Wednesday.

Belcourt explained the next steps of the process, stating, “I have to bring the motion back to the Building and Grounds Committee,” a Senate committee. Then Pacheco will work with them on a compromise. Belcourt added that students might have to wait a few weeks before any changes are made, as the legislative process is “slow because it’s thorough.”

In response to the SGA’s decision to remove them, Anna Billingsley, associate vice president of University Relations, said, “As a person who authorized [the banners], it was shocking to me.”

Billingsley also said that the University brought in a top-notch marketing and branding firm, the Educational Marketing Group, who helped to create an image for UMW based on the strengths of the University.

Billingsley said that she is open to working with students on the issue.

“I love to meet with students and get that feedback,” said Billingsley. “I would like for the student leaders to meet with the people in charge.”

Student response to the banners has been mixed. Laura Needham, a senior classics major, said that she has noticed the banners and read their advertisements. She finds them “kind of cheesy.”

When told about the SGA’s decision to remove them, she said “I don’t think it’s an urgent thing to take [them] down; [they’re] harmless.”

William Roarke, a senior history major, was more critical in his opinion of the banners.

“I think they could’ve come up with something better,” said Roarke. “It doesn’t really make a lot of sense; ‘a yes brainer?’”

Robert Jarvis, junior computer science major, had a somewhat differing opinion as he said.

“I think they’re cool. It’s a cool idea, it adds a lot to campus, but they could be better.” He thought that they were a nice touch to the university’s general atmosphere.

Roarke and Jarvis both believe that students should have a word in what slogans are used around campus.

Belcourt said that he hopes students will take action in creating new banners that better represent the UMW image. Anyone interested in voicing their opinion may meet with Belcourt at his office hours or come to a Senate meeting, which occur every Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in Monroe Hall, room 116.