Advertiser blankets Willey Hall with ads

Biology teacher Bruce Fall was upset by the distraction and felt it was a violation.

Correction: This article incorrectly listed the number of ads posted in Willey Hall. The article should have said there were approximately 100 ads.

This article also incorrectly paraphrased a quote from professor Jane Kirtley. The article should have read: Silha professor of media ethics and law Jane Kirtley said if a flier is proposing something legal and isnâÄôt false or misleading, itâÄôs constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.

On its own, a four-inch-by-five-inch sheet of neon green paper probably isn’t offensive to most people. But multiply that sheet by 300 or so, and it could spark a debate in advertising ethics.

Biology teacher Bruce Fall was teaching an introductory course in a Willey Hall auditorium last Thursday when he noticed numerous sheets of green paper attached to the backs of chairs with masking tape, some scattered on the ground.

The advertisements were for, a California-based Web site that allows students to sell textbooks, promote events and post housing and job openings.

Fall said he didn’t see who posted the fliers prior to the class. While he said he wasn’t sure what his authority to do so was, he said he would’ve “sent them packing.”

“I found that offensive,” he said. “I don’t care what it was.”

And Fall’s concerns had validity. According to University policy, “publications may be posted on bulletin boards expressly provided for public use” in academic buildings. A list of those bulletin boards is available in the offices of the vice president for University Services, Facilities Management and Student Activities Office.

Students shouldn’t have to deal with extra distractions while they’re trying to learn, said Fall, who compared the Uloop advertisements to the cards and fliers left on windshields.

“Students are paying a lot of money per minute,” he said. “I think we need to deal with the topic at hand and not deal with outside interests.”

Corey Cleek, CEO of Uloop, said one of the four University Uloop representatives posted the fliers and had been contacted by the University to discuss the policies. The site relies heavily on its campus representatives for marketing, in addition to web marketing, he said.

Cleek said Uloop encourages representatives to familiarize themselves with their campus’ posting policies.

“Universities have rules and guidelines for a purpose,” he said.

In terms of getting the word out, Cleek said the company emphasizes creativity. But as a company serving students, Uloop respects the University’s policies, he said.

Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law Jane Kirtley said if a flier is proposing something legal and isn’t falsely misleading, it’s constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.

At that point, she said, an institution like the University would have to show a substantial interest they’re trying to serve by regulation.

Kirtley said minimizing litter and distractions are probably substantial interests. Some University officials get “up-in-arms about the notion of litter,” she said, but that argument hasn’t always held up in courts.

“One person’s litter is another person’s valuable piece of communication,” she said.

But, she said, there is always an alternative for people who don’t want to deal with the clutter: “If you don’t want to look at advertising, then throw it away,” Kirtley said.

Crane said the University supports outside advertising as long as it’s done within school policy.

“We’re not trying to limit anyone,” he said.

Ben Doran, a University sophomore, said he had class in Willey Hall when it was “pretty obvious” to see it was plastered with papers.

“It really didn’t bother me that much,” he said. “But I can understand how some people can get upset about it.”

Doran said he found the advertisements easy to ignore, but noticed other classmates were distracted by their presence in the classroom.

Fall said he realized some students weren’t bothered by the advertisements, but students shouldn’t have to pick advertising off their seats when they’ve come to learn.

“I think that’s part of our culture,” Fall said. “We get deluged with advertising so much they probably just feel ‘here we go again.’ “