TV Ads Invade U. Indiana Residence Halls

Checking out at a food court, waiting for an elevator or even picking up mail may all be exercises in commercialism for students next semester at University of Indiana. The Presidents’ Council of the IU Residence Hall Association passed a bill sponsored by Residential Programs and Services Wednesday that will place big-screen plasma TVs in popular areas to display advertising, as well as student announcements.Ten of IU’s 11 residence centers supported the bill, even though RPS Executive Director Pat Connor told the board of presidents there has been no determination for what to do with the increased revenues. The televisions will be installed by Sadge Media, a campus advertising agency based in Cincinnati, and IU will receive approximately $30,000. “[What to do with the money] has not been determined yet,” Connor said. “It will be an additional revenue source. One of the discussions could be in terms of dedicating a percentage to either student programs or scholarships. There are a whole different number of ways we could do that. This is a way, and other universities have done it, to support programs and scholarships through a residence hall setting.” The University of Cincinnati already has the Sadge Media TVs on its campus. Connor showed the residence center presidents a loop of ads from UC that included a segment about registering online and ads for several recently released feature films, army recruiting and the campus bookstore. For IU, the TVs could appear as soon as January or February. Connor said it will start with just a handful of units, but the number will grow with time, perhaps even to other areas of campus outside of RPS. “We would start small,” he said. “It might be as little as two or three, picking spaces we believe will give the best bang for the advertisers’ dollar in addition to programs we’re trying to promote on campus.” The exact locations for the TVs have yet to be determined, but Connor singled out the Gresham Food Court in Foster Quad and the food court in Wright Quad as prime targets. Each location will be able to control the volume of the TV, although permanently muting it likely won’t be an option. Sadge Media will install and replace any vandalized or malfunctioning televisions at no cost to IU. RPS will also have right of refusal over any ads Sadge Media offers, giving IU the chance to avoid conflicts with existing University contracts with Nike and Coca-Cola. Freshman Mike Zennie attended the presidents’ meeting Wednesday night to protest the bill. He said the increased advertising is a dangerous precedent. “This is a terrible thing to accept carte blanche,” Zennie said. “When will it end? Are we going to have TVs placed in all of our dorms, which run ads 24/7? This is really not a good precedent to start … It’s not even specified where the money is going.” After nearly an hour of discussion with Connor Wednesday night, all but Collins Living-Learning Center voted in favor of the bill. In addition to the advertising, about 30 percent of the airtime will be dedicated to commercials and announcements for IU events. That, and the possibility of seeing some of the $30,000 for his center, was enough for McNutt Quad president Joe Reid, a sophomore. “If they’re going to put these in the food areas, it’s a good deal,” he said. “It will advertise for and bring money in for programs. It will make the student experience better.”Connor said he knows there will be concerns that the TVs are a sign of overcommercialization, but he said they won’t cheapen the campus atmosphere. “I don’t believe so,” he said. “There’s a lot of corporate advertising already on this campus. Every day there’s advertising in the Union, even though it’s a different medium. You can walk across the Arboretum every day and someone is going to try and shove something in your face to join this or join that. I still think this is a personal choice. It’s non-invasive; it’s just there.”