Promotional Posters Meet Rejection
Promotion of AUBG events at which alcohol will be served is on the administration’s black list. The goal, AUBG officials claim, is to increase civility on campus. The net effect of the ban is preventing university clubs and organizations from using posters to promote “alcohol friendly” events both on and off campus.
The new restrictions limit the promotion of some parties, off-campus events, and references to alcohol, unless they are appropriate, “like ‘the choir’s doing something’, a debate in Sofia or something like that …” Lucia Miree, Dean of Faculty, said. Additionally, President Michael Easton said that the words “party” and “reception” are acceptable, as long as the word “alcohol” is not present. For now, students can use the allstud email to promote their events until a specific decision is reached with Lydia Krise, Dean of Students. Social media is also free for promotional use, Easton said.
The More Honors Academy (MH) was among the first clubs to encounter the new regulations. Their poster ideas were rejected several times because the subtext was too obviously related to alcohol. [See initial poster on the left] “We asked about ‘bear,’ ‘bere,’ even just putting a huge bear head instead of the word,” Petar Agov, Co-President of MH said, “but they still said that it has the subtext of giving out alcohol, so there’s nothing they can do.” According to Pavel and Petar Agov, the administration’s concerns are legitimate; however, they believe “that the students…are educated well enough to not be negatively influenced by a simple poster with words such as ‘alcohol’ or ‘partying’ on it.”
According to Dean Miree, the Board of Trustees [BoT] made a commitment with the President and the senior management to increase civility on campus. This commitment is reflected in the Academic Catalog of 2013-2014 [p. 3- bottom], which states that the University aims to promote “standards of behavior that reflect well upon, and bring credit to, themselves [students, faculty, and staff], the university, and the greater community.”
Dean Miree pointed to incidents of faculty harassment by students as an example of incivility on campus. As a result of those episodes, according to Dean Miree, the administration started looking at those areas of student life that contribute to cases of incivility or do not credit the image of the university.
President Easton and Dean Miree said promotion of certain AUBG events contradicts the university’s new commitment. Dean Miree said that posters promoting some parties, off-campus events, alcohol – especially free alcohol – “don’t send a really good message to potential employers when they come to an academic building. Now that we have the Student Center it might be different, but coming to an academic building, it doesn’t send a really good message.”
The administrators said the potential for excessive alcohol consumption was another concern. “Problems at many universities are related to alcohol,” Dean Miree said. “I’m not saying we have one. But we want to be sure to provide people an alcohol-free environment.” She further emphasized that the university is not going to be involved in the promotion of free alcohol distribution at public events.
“It looks like SG might be buying alcohol,” Miree said. “And it looks like we’re funding organizations to have alcohol. And we’re not against people drinking, that’s not the point. But, for instance, the ABF people … don’t want to see their scholarship money go into drinking parties.”
President Easton said alcohol consumption is “totally out of control here [at AUBG].” He pointed out that AUBG does not have a desire to encourage further alcohol usage. He specifically referred to AUBG clubs’ recruitment strategies. “If people cannot attract members to a club other than [by] giving away free booze, then they better look at the seriousness of their club and what it is about,” he said.
Many of the recruitment parties held by AUBG clubs that do offer refreshments continue at off-campus venues, the promotion of which also falls under the new restrictions on promotional posters. According to Dean Miree, such events have “nothing to do with our [AUBG’s] purpose on campus. There’s nothing to do with leadership development, there’s no skills building, there’s no community kind of thing.”
Furthermore, she said the senior management wants to shift away from party-oriented events to events that they believe “will develop a good community.”
“It’s not that we don’t want people to party,” she said, “but we’d prefer to see a lot of signs for debates, for clubs, for activities; I mean, these clubs do happen on campus. There are always speakers, and we’d like to see an image that when people come to us, on campus, they’d see that it’s more academically and socially related.”
Deni Panova, Sales Manager at Radio AURA, experienced problems with the approval of AURA’s recruitment posters. The problem was that they referred to an after party in one of Blagoevgrad’s night clubs. “AUBGers want to relax and loosen up; we want to have fun with our friends in venues appropriate for that purpose, so that the residents are not disturbed,” Panova said.
“I personally believe that organizing events which take place outside AUBG … provides our community with more advantages than downsides, such as bonding with other fellow AUBGers; creating connection between them and the students from other universities and experiencing the ‘student life’ in a controlled area,” she said.
“We believe that by organizing and promoting such events, the participants in these [AUBG] clubs gain valuable real life experience, when it comes to negotiating deals, coming up with newer and newer ideas to keep their events attractive, and being responsible enough to pull these events off,“ MH Presidents Petar and Pavel Agov said. “Furthermore, these off-campus parties do not concern only AUBG itself. They are a major factor in creating the image of Blagoevgrad – a city buzzing with life, full of young, diverse people, a city with many possibilities to have fun.”
Dean Miree said that she was not sure whether a message about the restrictions was passed to the student government, because it was recently formed. “We probably could do better about telling people about the changes,” she said.
President Easton said there’s another way for students to learn about the ban on promotional posters. “We don’t approve the posters, it’s very easy to do,” he said. “We only have like three places that approve posters, and they won’t approve it.”
Policies like these are “moving policies,” according to Dean Miree, as the administration intends to examine whether the new restrictions affect attendance at certain events. For the time being, the ban will remain in effect. “They [BoT] were very concerned about the interaction last year, the type of interaction on campus,” she said. “And from that we were looking at standards that reflect well upon us when people come in from outside. People can go party all they want, I don’t care.”
Since AUBG aims at crediting the image of the university, AUBG Daily has decided to compare the university’s rules to those of Harvard University. Harvard’s Handbook for Students holds the following passage on promoting parties:
a. Printed and electronic posters for social events on campus may mention alcohol, provided they use the following specific and approved language:
i. “Non-alcoholic beverages available. Beer 21+”
ii.“Non-alcoholic beverages available. Beer and wine 21+”
b. Only the Office of Student Life may approve variations to this standard language for campus-wide advertisements, regardless of where the event is to be held. A House may approve variations to the standard language for events to be held within the House and advertised only within the House. Advertisements may contain no other references to alcohol, including without limitation: price of alcoholic beverages; types of beers, wines, or mixed drinks available; or photos or logos of alcoholic beverages.