Natalie Voorheis gets a rude awakening – literally – as she witnesses the carnage of the Thursday morning ‘poster race’
Have you ever seen the Thursday morning poster run along the concourse from Quinn up to the student centre? If so, you can imagine the shock I got as I cycled, bleary-eyed, my mind still on my pillow into UCD at 8:30am last Thursday morning. If not, then good for you: you are in blissful ignorance of the frantic rush of activity that society members undergo to ensure their posters get a prominent hanging point of the concourse. It’s stressful to say the least – even for the onlooker.
As I cycled slowly down the length of the concourse during the first minute of postering, I saw parallels with the scene in the 2004 film Mean Girls where the infamous ‘Burn Book’ has been photocopied, and the pages strewn through the hallways of school. As the students realise that their most intimate secrets have been published for everyone to read, they go wild running through the corridors, accusing each other of revealing their secrets, and coming to blows. Pretences of human sanity are thrown in the dustbin and the lid is placed firmly on.
At the start of last Thursday’s snowy postering session, people seemed to be just standing around doing nothing, and I reflected, disappointed, that this was not the frantic scramble I had been led to believe it would be. But this, I realised as someone screamed “Go!” at exactly half past eight, had been the calm before the storm. On this signal, people began racing here and there, jostling with each other as they literally smacked their posters against the notice boards moving swiftly down the length of the concourse, as if it was the last thing they would ever do. Altercations broke out as one society member challenged the validity of an opposing society’s poster placement.
For someone who has never witnessed the insanity of Postering Thursday, this description must seem over the top. It isn’t. Twenty minutes later, as the concourse began to fill with students heading to their 9am lectures and tutorials, and as society members move on with their day, you would never know anything crazy had happened at all – save for the side-to-side coverage of new posters all over campus.
Niall Fahy, a second year Law with Economics student, has been postering for the L&H since he came to UCD. As an active member of the society and a current candidate for auditor, Fahy knows the drill when it comes to the competitive world of postering and gave The University Observer his sage advice.
“People are so different when they’re postering,” he reasons. “It’s totally nuts. People get really, really annoyed at each other – you will always see a couple of arguments.” By all admittance we students can be a lazy bunch, but once the effort has been made to get up at some ungodly hour and trek into UCD in the snow, you can imagine the lengths people go to in order to ensure that their crack-of-dawn start has not been in vain.
Fahy helped me make sense of what I’d seen, describing the tricks of the trade. “It takes about fifteen [people] to get a good lot up. Societies that have the occasional big event and aren’t postering every week will get thirty or so out in one day to make sure the event is a success, and that can be a nightmare for us as it ups the competition.”
Fahy explained that although official postering begins at 8:30pm when Societies Officer Richard Butler shouts “Go!”, well-organised societies generally have their members out by 7:45am in order to insure the best coverage. To prevent the monopolization of certain areas of the concourse, posterers are forbidden from standing with their posters in their hands. In response to this, students put sellotape on their posters and lay them face down on the ground in front of a pillar or wall, thus unofficially claiming that particular spot.
Fahy acknowledges that the whole process is a strange one, but feels that it is a fair way to allocate space, and is certainly better than letting people poster wherever and whenever they want – which would result in a huge litter problem, as well as giving disproportionate and unfair poster coverage for certain societies and campaigners.
The bigger societies spend huge amounts each week on the production of their posters. €400 for a batch of 300 posters would not be considered extortionate by most committees. This huge output throws the issue of vandalism of posters, or a ‘poster rip’, into sharp relief – although unofficially so, the places left after a poster rip are considered fair game. “Occasionally you’ll get a text from Conor McAndrew who’s the [L&H] auditor,” Fahy relates, “and he’ll say there’s been a poster rip in Arts. And we’ll have to run to the [Societies] Forum Office and make sure we get the free spots before anyone else notices. It can be really exciting sometimes – that does happen a lot.”
Postering coverage can make or break an event, and society members go to great lengths to ensure that the former occurs. Fintan Neylan, auditor of the Philosophy Society, described how he has often seen society members whose posters did not arrive on time from the printers, use large white sheets with their society names on them in order to state their claim over certain spots – so that when their posters arrive later, they have places to be displayed. “It’s a right battle – people running around viciously arguing with each another about things.”
UCD takes the business of postering very seriously, and there are numerous rules students must adhere to while postering. Neylan stressed the importance the UCD authorities place on postering on campus: “Before term starts there is an auditor training day. All the auditors are brought into a room and we run through everything about societies regarding grants and that kind of thing, and postering is a big part of that.”
Next time you have a 9am Thursday lecture, why not arrive half an hour early and take a look at the madness of the Poster Race, you wont be disappointed.