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.