Our view: A billboard beatdown

DKS Editors

Smile – you could be on candid camera.

This week, the university unveiled two graphics on the exterior of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Both show Kent State students; one is emblazoned with the phrase “engage,” the other with “aspire.”

The two graphics are part of a university marketing effort aimed at creating pride throughout the Kent State community. In the summer, a similar graphic – showing students at graduation with the phrase “You belong here” – was plastered on the side of the library.

University officials believe enough in the graphics that more are planned in the future. Student reaction has been more mixed.

But here’s the real kicker – the university doesn’t have to ask for the students’ permission before putting these graphics up.

Now, let’s get one thing straight: Kent State has the right to do this without student permission. The Ohio Revised Code allows universities to use student images for educational or marketing purposes. As long as the people in the photos were students at the time the picture was taken, Kent State isn’t breaking any laws.

However, just because university officials can put the images up without student permission doesn’t mean they should. We don’t question their desire to market the university – we just question their tactics.

Picture yourself waking up one morning to find your face plastered several stories high on the side of Satterfield Hall. How would you feel if that happened? Embarrassed? Upset? Unnerved? All of the above? More importantly, wouldn’t you have wanted some kind of advance warning?

No, the university isn’t obligated to inform students of decisions like this. But it just seems like common courtesy to let students know beforehand their images are being used.

These graphics aren’t comparable to the brochures Kent State sends to prospective students. In brochures, student images are smaller; they’re not dozens of feet high, like the graphics.

Because the photos can be seen from the street, we believe it makes sense for the university to inform students beforehand. Advance warning is the best way to avoid angry students.

Another issue is the money being spent on this marketing effort. In the current economic recession, and with the possibility of budget cuts to higher education in the coming years, it doesn’t seem prudent to spend a lot of money on things like this.

The money could be better spent elsewhere.

We don’t fault the university’s efforts to market itself. Kent State is in constant competition with other universities for students, and officials should be looking for any edge they can find in marketing.

In terms of these graphics, however, we think the university should think about student reaction. If university officials really think the graphics are necessary, they should at least let the pictured students know in advance. It’s only fair, after all.

Plus, let’s be honest: They’re an eyesore, akin to a building tattoo.