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Policy group proposes alternatives to postering

By Linda D'Angelo

After one month of meetings, the MIT Postering Policy Group has proposed several alternative ways of publicizing student events on-campus, according to group coordinator Mark D'Agostino '90. The group will now enter the "getting-things-done-stage," in order to establish a new Institute postering policy, D'Agostino said.

So far, the main focus of the client group has been the discussion of ideas which, instead of falling within the poster policy itself, "run parallel to it," D'Agostino said. These alternatives would "provide a service" to the MIT community by "supplementing" the publicity of activities and events, he explained.

Allowing drop posters in areas other than Lobby 7 is one such alternative, with the stairwell between the first and second floors of the Stratton Student Center as one possibility. Although it is not currently being investigated by the group, this idea is "in the works somewhere," according to D'Agostino.

Since so many students pass through the dining halls each day, the group has also explored ways of effectively using this space to publicize student events. One suggestion is to print out activity calendars to be "used as placemats at Lobdell," D'Agostino said. This idea, which would encourage students to discuss upcoming activities with friends over lunch, will be discussed with ARA, according to Undergraduate Association Vice President and group member Andrew Strehle '91.

Listing campus activities in an announcement section of The Tech, as a combined service of the paper and the Campus Activities Office, is another possibility, according to D'Agostino. The lowering of advertising rates for all student activities was also discussed by the group.

Providing a monthly activities calendar, or "on-line information on what's happening," which students could access through Project Athena is another alternative to supplement postering for activity meetings and events, D'Agostino said.

A more effective use of on-campus bulletin boards has also been discussed by the group. One way of doing this is to group the bulletin boards according to type; some would be designated "for-sale" boards, others daily boards, still other social boards.

D'Agostino cited the Lobby 7 daily board that was started last year as an example. And although the board "did not really take," D'Agostino learnt from the failed attempt. First, since the "changing of habits takes time" the boards should be located in areas which are part of students' daily routine. A "big publicity push" and an "attention-grabbing" format are also necessary, he added.

The fact that "things stand out if they're not where they are supposed to be" also presents a problem for bulletin board postering, Strehle said. When a poster is one among fifty publicizing the same type of event, it draws less attention, he explained.

The centralization of these alternative publicity sources "through the Campus Activities Complex" was also discussed, Strehle said. This would allow activities to publicize in several sources by placing just one phone call, thus minimizing the amount of effort on the part of the activities, he added. This might also lead the information desk, already set-up on the first floor of the Student Center, to become more of a central focus for activity information.

The group also hoped to stop the postering of commercial flyers, such as credit card and travel ads. This "would take away a lot of the visual pollution" that plagues the Infinite Corridor, D'Agostino said.

Each of these alternatives are "seen as a net good" by most members of the client group, D'Agostino said. But since "different segments of the community will favor different things," he explained, the debate will arise over how much effort is justified for each of these ideas.

Establishing a new poster policy

"Postering is unique in that it is passive; the reader doesn't have to exert any extra effort to read it," D`Agostino commented. In contrast, he explained, the suggested alternatives "don't have this special quality of grabbing the individual without his having to take the initiative." Strehle also recognized that postering is "a terrific way to get information across." That is why "there will always be postering at MIT," he said.

But the current poster policy "is clearly not working," according to Strehle. Under this policy students can "poster only on bulletin boards designated for student activities," cannot poster on any walls or windows and must take down their own posters, he said. The policy is enforced daily by Physical Plant, who takes down all posters which do not comply, and "there are no fines," he added.

Having suggested several viable alternatives for publicizing student events, the group now needs to get down to the "not-so-agreeable job" of establishing an effective poster policy. Since it involves deciding on exact wording, and establishing possible punishments, this part of the process is "a little stickier," D`Agostino said.

Most members of the group agree that the goal is a "policy that is going to make sense to everybody," D'Agostino said. The group does not want "a war-time solution," which would pit physical plant against posterers, he added. "Enforcing an unfriendly policy would not be easy" and this fact is in the "minds [of members] as they come to the details" of policy-making, he explained.

Strehle argued against establishing fines as part of the poster policy, convinced that there are "better ways" to encourage compliance. If fines were to be included in the policy, a problem would arise over who would have to pay, he said. The money should not come from the UA Finance Board since "they are already strapped," he explained, nor should it come from individual students since this would be "penalizing those who are active."

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the group to date is that, through discussion, all the members have begun to see other perspectives, D'Agostino said. The Postering Policy Group consists of undergraduate and graduate students, administration and Physical Plant officials and these "different people come with different biases and perspectives," he noted. But within two meetings the "students have become aware of the need for a poster policy and the administration has become more convinced of how important postering is," he added.