Banner around worksite catches attention, wind

The day spring semester began, a banner-like wrap attached to the fence surrounding the demolition site of the parking garage was removed, causing some students and faculty to express concern for the cost and necessity of the materials.

The wrap, which was hung by construction workers around the chain-link fence circling the site of the new student services building during winter break, displayed positive images and statements such such as research and students’ accomplishments. While Chancellor Rita Cheng said the wrap was a part of construction costs, some faculty and students who passed the site questioned the need for it.

Cheng said funding for the wrap came from the costs of the new student services building project. She said it was necessary because construction-fencing wrap is needed to protect pedestrian’s eyes from dust, as well as hide the construction.

The wrap was taken down because of an installation error with the construction company as well as high winds, she said. Cheng said it should be repaired and wrapped back around the  fence next week.

While Cheng said she did not have the exact cost of the wrap, she said it was significant because the construction site has to be secured. The graphics displaying information about the university on the maroon and white banner, Cheng said, cost the university about $100 more than a wrap with stock photographs would.

“People who’ve seen it know that we use our marketing images from our new view book,” she said. “So our students, especially our freshmen next year, will recognize the photos from enrollment management materials.”

Director of Plant and Services Operations Phil Gatton and Kevin Bame, vice chancellor for admissions and finance, were not available for comment Monday for information regarding exact costs of the wrap.

Cheng said the wrap was not a trivial cost and the opportunity to place university materials on the wrap was only one hundred dollars, and helps hide the ugliness of the activity.

Dave Johnson, an associate professor in the department of foreign languages and literatures, said the amount of money spent on advertising versus the amount of money going toward the activity being advertised is an ongoing debate. He cited one example of a message on the wrap about undergraduate research. He said the message would be great to spread if it were a main priority on campus.

“I think there’s a risk of a disconnect of the message we’re sending in marketing and the resources we’re spending on campus,” he said.

Karen Sweiger-Veil, secretary to the chair of the department of foreign languages and literatures, said her initial response after viewing the wrap was that it looked expensive.

“I thought it was unnecessary. I mean, you could see through them to see the construction,” Sweiger said.

She said she saw words such as “Excel” and other marketing strategies were printed on the banners. If the target of the message was a prospective student, Sweiger-Veil said the materials may have gone to better use elsewhere.

“It’s kind of like wasted, because the kids are already here,” she said. “It would be better off on a billboard somewhere,” she said.

Johnson said he thought the wrap looked like it was designed more for recruitment than retention.

“Ideally, your message would be the same internally as it is externally, that people would buy into the message, and that current students would take pride in what this institution has to offer,” he said.

Some students question the intended purpose of the banners that advertised facts about the university.

James Reeves, a senior from Ft. Lauderdale studying paralegal studies, said he noticed the wrap on the first day back from break.

“What a waste of money,” he said.

Reeves said because most of the dangerous construction was completed over break, he didn’t see covering up the sight to be necessary.

Brian Cook, a graduate student from Chicago in English, said the images he saw on the banner, such as SIU students and faculty doing research and the university having a multiethnic campus, portrayed university pride.

“It didn’t hide anything that’s going on, but at the same time it had a certain ‘we’re proud of what we do here’ feel,” he said.

Cook said he first saw the wrap the day it was taken down.

“It’s expected that they would put that stuff up,” he said. “What wasn’t expected is that they would take it down.”

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