Column: Classroom ads need to go

By Dan Mollison

It has happened to all of us. We sleepily walk into our classes, find a seat, pull out our notebooks and get ready for another hour of trying to stay awake so we can understand our professors. Then, just as we’re focusing on the lecture, we see a message on the upper corner of the chalkboard. “Come see the Lame Actors Society perform ‘Some Stupid Show’ this Friday at 7pm! Free pizza! (save).” We are forced to stare at this for the next fifty minutes.

Classroom advertisements are everywhere. They’re scrawled on our chalkboards and almost always accompanied by that little “save” message written at the bottom. They’re found on brightly colored fliers hanging above or next to the chalkboard. Some are student related, but the most irritating of messages are posted by campus businesses, which have, in some cases, included sexual references that are simply demeaning to students. No matter what the advertisement says, though, you can be sure of one thing – the more annoying it is to you, the more effective the advertisement is.

In the past few decades, the American advertisement industry has thrived. We’ve become so accustomed to seeing advertisements everywhere we go that we don’t even think about them. We know that when we turn on the TV, our programs are going to be interrupted by commercials. We understand that commercials are a trade-off; the advertisers show their products to us, but in exchange they sponsor our TV programs. If we don’t want to see commercials, we don’t have to. We can turn off the TV. Whenever we’re faced with an advertisement in any form of the media, we always have the choice to walk away from it.

The problem arises when advertisements are posted in places where we don’t have a choice to leave. If class has started and there’s a giant advertisement in your direct line of sight that you don’t want to stare at, what can you do? You could leave the class, but you’ve got your grade to worry about. I don’t know many professors who would be happy if a student started erasing their chalkboard during the lecture. At this point, you don’t have much choice. You’re forced to look at it for the next fifty minutes. What’s worse is that this constant exposure just makes the advertisement more effective.

Despite how bothersome classroom advertisements can be, some can offer positive qualities. They can spread awareness about important events happening on campus. With more than 800 student organizations at the University of Illinois, it’s safe to say there’s a lot going on that most students don’t know about. Some organizations have no choice but to advertise to students in order to stay afloat. For the sake of student groups whose classroom advertisements are their only hope for survival, I think it’s worth the inconvenience their advertisements pose for the rest of us. Business advertisements, however, are another matter. These messages offer no gain for students. In fact, they’re often the most bothersome, especially when they demean us with sexual references. I’ve paid enough tuition money to have my classrooms be free of these annoyances. Businesses need to stay out of our classrooms. And to anyone who is irritated by a business advertisement, make your opinion count by not patronizing the business. This is what capitalism is for.

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In the end, it just comes down to etiquette. If you want to advertise something related to a student organization, write or post it on a side chalkboard that we’re all not forced to stare at. If you see an advertisement on a chalkboard that you don’t want to look at for an entire class, do us all a favor and erase it. And if you see a flier posted in an inappropriate place, take it down. You’ll be helping out more people than you know.