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The Blue & Gray Press | October 15, 2018

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Zero Turn-out to Assess Slogans

By MARGARET CHENAULT

On Monday, Nov. 19, members of a marketing group and faculty from University Relations sat in an empty room, waiting to hear student ideas on new slogans for University of Mary Washington.

The meeting had been planned for 4:30 in Lee Hall 412 for students to come share their ideas and opinions. An “Idea Wall” was set up with notecards stacked beside it and Vocelli’s pizza and sodas filled up tables in anticipation of attendance.

The event was a response to the Student Senate vote to remove the banners along Campus Walk on Oct. 31.

Students were concerned about how the marketing was displayed internally.

According to Anna Billingsley, associate vice president for University Relations, there was a disconnect between current students, who are on campus all the time, and prospective students.

The positioning statement of the brand platform for UMW states, “Our civically, socially and intellectually engaged community inspires individuals to define and act upon their beliefs.”

Students have done just that by raising questions and concerns about the banners. Many felt that they were bringing intrusive advertising onto campus and making it part of everyday life.

“We agree with the students that we were thinking about how we have prospective students visiting the campus, but we also have current students to stay in touch with,” said Billingsley.

Students see the banners every day as they walk to class, but few know why the decision to hang them was made.

According to Billingsley, the idea of banners came up right before orientation as a way to keep consistent touch points with advertising that is used to bring new students to campus.

Though it was not the first time banners were put up on campus, it was the first time they were used for continuous advertising rather than celebration, as they were for the 100-year anniversary or university presidents’ inaugurations.

Some of the orientation budget was designated for decorating campus, according to Kyle Alwine, the admissions representative who organized this year’s freshmen orientation and an 2012 alumnus.

“For me, being an alumni who now donates to the university, a two-day stint of balloons did not seem like an adequate use of funding,” said Alwine.

Orientation leaders were featured on the banners, which were meant to make the campus more welcoming and friendly, according to Alwine.

Prior to students voicing concern about the banners, faculty members were already beginning to take action.

“There were internal discussions about changing them before it ever came up with students,” said Maria Schultz, assistant director of design services. “We were concerned already about the message ‘change your mind’ delivers.”

Cynthia Battles, a junior anthropology major, attended the meeting to gather information for a fieldwork research project. After discussing the university in class, Battles was attracted to the topic of university marketing and wanted to study the banners.

According to Battles, the banners do convey certain problematic messages when looked at from certain perspectives.

“I want prospective students to know that this is a university that will broaden their horizons, and I think that’s what the university wants too,” said Battles.

However, as the meeting drew to a close, the “Idea Wall” remained blank, with no new student suggestions to pursue.

“It’s one more avenue where we’re trying to push for student involvement and where the faculty really want student involvement,” said Jeremy Thompson, Student Government Association president.

The Bullet invited students to share their ideas over Twitter and Facebook and received multiple responses.

Senior Matt Wease suggested, “Expand your understanding.”

However, many students believe that UMW should not have slogans at all.

“I think most students are over the slogan thing entirely,” said senior Tekla Taylor. “We as a university should be above cheap advertising tactics.”

For students whose schedules may have prevented them from attending the meeting, Anna Billingsly may be contacted via email to share ideas about university marketing and the banners.

Comments

  1. Chino

    I only heard about the meeting the day of (Nov 19). I don’t know where else it was publicized but the University Relations didn’t do enough to get the word out!

  2. Junior

    I would’ve loved to have gone but never even heard about it. I guess it’s good they want to hear from us, but students not showing up doesn’t mean we don’t care. Even if there had been adequate advertising, it was scheduled a day before Thanksgiving break.

  3. DearMisterHurley

    Let’s get real – the slogans that these marketing whatever people have already come up with hurt people’s brains. “It’s a yes brainer”, for instance. Is it? Doesn’t that mean that you really have to think about it? I understand it can be taken other more clever ways, but the interpretation that it is the opposite of a no-brainer is quite common.

    Get rid of the slogans. Stop hiring and paying marketing companies for advertising we don’t need. This is not a business, this is a school. How do you get more people to come here? By being a better school. How do you become a better school? By not wasting our time and money on hiring people to come up with “Where great minds get to work.”

    At this point in time, there are departments awaiting their fate to be determined by consulting firms – there are departments waiting to see if they will even exist in four years. A liberal arts school with online foreign languages? Yeah, okay. Maybe stop with the money on the words, and continue with the money on the education. That would be nice.

  4. :(

    I had no idea about this meeting 🙁 Would have tried to make it to see what people said otherwise. Strange to pay a marketing firm to hear students opinions on slogans, huh? 😛 I still would’ve liked to go if I only had heard about it.

  5. Senior

    Amen.

  6. XxHurleyFanxX1986

    At the first SSLA meeting there was a reporter from the bullet who was live tweeting everything. The bullet’s twitterfeed tweeted during said meeting that there was going to be a meeting the assess the slogans, but the reporter didn’t mention that when we scheduled the next SSLA meeting for the same time. All the kids at the second SSLA meeting would have gone to the slogans meeting, but we didn’t know. Sad.