If you have ever trekked down the concourse, you will have noticed a growing trend regarding the posters positioned on campus by the many societies. Some of these posters would have stood out from the rest but not because of vibrant colours, an eye catching image or even by its message. They stood out by simply being a blank white poster with the society event hastily scribbled on with black marker.
However, this simplistic method of advertising is not due to the societies thinking outside the box. Instead, they are either placeholders for formal posters that have yet to return fron printing, or – more probably in recent times – they are a quick replacement for their original posters which had been taken down. While this in itself is nothing new, the frequency with which it has occurred during this semester is definitely unfamiliar. We’ve yet to reach the halfway mark of this semester, and it’s been a regular occurrence thus far.
The university has decided to take a hardline approach to curb this problem, beginning with a €5,000 fine doled out to the Business and Legal (B&L) Society and Arts Society for their posters advertising ‘The Virgin Ball’ at the start of the semester. Even for a society as large as either Arts Soc or B&L, €2,500 is a considerable amount of money to lose – and with sponsorship falling this year, such fines could easily be a finishing blow for a small society.
“With sponsorship falling this year, such fines could easily be a finishing blow for a small society”
While the main concern for other societies is becoming more conscious about their method of advertising to avoid a similar fate, an even bigger concern is that neither society was allowed to attend the meeting to defend themselves. Instead, they were asked to email a defence to be read out to the hearing committee. They are also unable to appeal the punishment.
Immediately, it’s clear to see there are obvious problems with this system. The main problem is the refusal of the Societies Council to allow the societies defend themselves in person. Regardless of what the charges are, there will always be two sides to a story and by limiting or disregarding one argument or defence, the chances of making an uninformed or unfair judgement are greatly increased.
While the reasoning as to why the posters were taken down is relatively logical – to protect those students who would be either susceptible or vulnerable to such advertising – it is illogical to limit the defence made by the societies, regardless of how implausible the defence may be. By not allowing any members of either society to be present at this meeting, the focus of the Recognition Committee, who made the final ruling regarding the fines, became how severe the punishment should be, and not whether or the punishment fitted the crime.
“Both sides have a responsibility to the members of this University to abide to the rules”
Additionally, it is much easier to pass a negative verdict when the perpetrators aren’t present to either object or question the result. Delivering bad news and finding people guilty isn’t easy. It is possible that Recognition Committee is implementing an avoidance tactic in case the society representatives argued against the committee.
The other problem is getting the societies to construct a convincing argument in an email in less then two days. This is a tall order regardless of how much time you possess – but because there are no society representatives present, any weight their argument may have had is lost.
But why do these incidents occur in the first place? Obviously, the aim of advertisements is to provoke as much interest in a product or event as possible, and naturally societies will want to appeal to as large an audience as possible by portraying provocative images or messages. The fact that these incidents have occurred numerous times this semester suggests a lack of communication or engagement between societies and the university on the matter. Both sides have a responsibility to the members of this university to abide by the rules, and to each other to cooperate and resolve any issues openly. While B&L and Arts Soc responded quickly by replacing the posters within three hours of positioning them, they were fined regardless and their efforts were effectively made obsolete.
To make an example of some societies as scare tactics for any other offending societies to fall in line is unnecessary, and a fine so severe should only have been issued when all other options have been exhausted. However, that doesn’t mean the societies in question are the victims of the story. They too must be aware of their responsibilities and how any of their advertisements could be perceived by the student population.
It is only by both sides meeting halfway through open dialogue that such issues can be resolved and even avoided in future. Both sides can only move forward when they start focusing on the cause of the crime – if indeed it is one at all – rather than its punishment.