Commercial ads questioned

Senate looks into advertisements in academic settings on campus

Professor Jones brought his concerns to Senate after noticing large advertisements posted near classrooms in Mac-Corry.
Professor Jones brought his concerns to Senate after noticing large advertisements posted near classrooms in Mac-Corry.
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A Queen’s senator has raised concerns about about commercial advertising on campus following the release of new floor to ceiling ads in the Macintosh-Corry Hall walkway.

The issue was first raised by Mark Jones during question period in Senate on Sept. 25 and was brought up again at the Oct. 30 Senate.

“I submit that it is wrong for an institution of public education to run commercial ads in its educational space or in connection with its academic mission because this confers the public institution’s educational authority,” Jones wrote in a statement to Senate.

Since 2005 there has been no framework or policy guiding the display of commercial advertisements.

When Jones questioned if there would be a policy in place, the Provost, Alan Harrison responded by saying there is currently no method to create policies like that at the moment, but that there will be one in the works.

“To correct both deficiencies, my VP colleagues and I are about to begin working with the university secretariat on the development of university policy.  Once this is in place, we shall be in a position to develop a policy on advertising and commercial activity.  “I shall keep Senate apprised of developments, and want to assure Senate that the process will ensure appropriately wide consultation for any new policy,” he told Senate at the Oct. 30 meeting.

On campus, spaces are designated either as academic spaces, where no advertisements can run, or they are classified as student life spaces, where ads are free to run; the space Jones is concerned about is part of the latter.

“My concern about it is basically that we’re an education institution, we’ve got an obligation to educate rather than advertise,” Jones said.

His question directly referred to the Target, Apple and Bell ads that ran in the Macintosh-Corry hallways.

He estimates that these ads are about 100 feet away from classroom doors and he said he believes students shouldn’t be subject to viewing these ads before they enter their classrooms.

“Maybe students aren’t concerned about this, [but] I think they should be,” he said.

“If it’s allowed to continue without comment, I think it will get more extensive and I would

just rather not see Queen’s plastered floor to ceiling with advertisements all over campus.”

School of Business Professor Laurence Ashworth noted that there are some arguments that incremental exposure to ads can become problematic, but these conclusions can’t be verified to his knowledge.

“Normally, objections to such effects are based on assumptions about the kinds of behaviour consumers should engage in.  I would argue students are pretty good at deciding for themselves,” he said.

“I think the main issue here is whether students are comfortable with commercial messages in this context.”

He also added that every student will act differently to advertisements they see.

“Some students won’t care, and others likely recognize the substantial indirect benefits to students in terms of the revenue that they would generate for the university,” he said.

The questions Jones raised about the ads were directed over to Doug Johnson because the AMS controls the student spaces in the Mac-Corry main hallway where the advertisements were displayed, as well as the JDUC, Queen’s Centre and MacGillivary-Brown Hall.

The AMS is only permitted to display ads in these designated student life spaces.

“The greatest benefit we get from advertising [revenue], in the student life spaces, is the opportunity to offer as many free services to students as possible,” Tristan Lee, AMS vice president of operations, said.

All advertisements come from two companies, Rouge Media and Newad Inc., that work with the AMS and every ad must be approved by the Student Life Centre committee, made up of AMS, SGPS and university representatives.

In his opinion, Lee, ArtSci ’12 said every step is being taken to ensure ads that are chosen to be displayed on campus are screened for what they see as appropriate.

He also added that the AMS is in favour of academic spaces staying ad free.

“It was never our intention to disrupt the quality of education at this school or the education spaces only the student life spaces themselves we felt was appropriate to have ads.”

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