How Do Students Get News on Campus, and Why Does No One Read It?

Written by Ben Horwitz ’17 and Marcelo Jauregui-Volpe ’18. Data for Graphics generously provided by Haverford Students Council.

By virtue of its vibrant and active community environment, Haverford hosts a myriad of events. From academic teas, house parties, FUCS shows, to Donuts with Dan, students are constantly organizing activities and staying active.  However, the mere existence of an event is not enough. Attendance is key, and thus the means of promotion is crucial as well. Yet with so many events on campus, how can students know which events to attend, and how these events are best publicized?

A variety of different sized colored posters cover the walls of dorms and entrances to Magill and the Dining Center. Constant emails clutter inboxes with updates on clubs, elections, and abstract releases. There are several ways student participation is sought. The results are, as expected, varying.  Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.59.12 PM

Posting fliers to billboards around campus, commonly known as postering, is one of the more popular and in-your-face approaches. Most would agree that these methods are successful— to a certain extent.

“Postering is, I think, a decent way of raising awareness about an event but maybe not the best,” says Patrick Quinn ‘17. “It only really works when you put posters places where people are forced to look at them for more than a second or two.”

As pointed out by Emily Kingsley ‘18, issues of excess can arise: “Once the posters start piling up too much on the bulletin boards, they lose some of their impact.”

Kingsley’s sentiment isn’t a unique one at Haverford, and it touches on the greater issue of information dispersal and consumption.

“There are so many things happening on campus,” says Monica Zorilla ‘17,  “and it can become quite overwhelming to keep track of.”

In addition to oversaturation, students also raise concerns about delayed information and the efficiency of emailing information about campus news and events. Quinn adds, “sometimes I get emails about committee applications or events on the Weekly Consensus that were already due, already happened or are due or happening in a day.”

Advertising events in the Dining Center lobby, known as tabling, falls into the same category as postering. While tabling, students set up shop behind a folding table and distribute information. Tabling is commonly used to gather signatures for Plenary resolutions or advertise club events. While effective, tabling has attracted negative attention as well.

“Tabling to me doesn’t really work because of how in-your-face it is,” says Tyler Fong ‘18.

As is usually the case, social media, specifically Facebook, reigns supreme due to its frequent use by the student body.

“What I think works best is making a Facebook event and doing your best to invite as many people as possible,” states Quinn.  “Pretty much everyone is on Facebook and people who aren’t have friends who are [on Facebook].”

Facebook’s widespread use makes it easy to get a grasp of what the specific event will look like. This social aspect of event attendance may lend itself to a sort of event-based conspicuous consumption wherein students will attend an event simply because a friend said that they would on Facebook, which can in turn influence a greater turn out.Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.09.42 AM

“Events can be publicized to a very large audience,” says Kingsley,  “It is also helpful to see who else plans on going to a certain event.”

Some of the proposed solutions to these problems relate to means of promotion that already exist. Quinn suggests, “What could help is if the weekly consensus was turned into a Webpage…with event headers…[with] detailed description[s].”

Other students, such as Zorilla, propose more up-and-coming forms of advertisements, like the Go! portal.

“I think the new version of the Go! Boards has a lot of potential, now it just comes down to making it trendy for the student population to use,” suggests Zorilla. “A mobile app, perhaps?”

Unbeknownst to many, a mobile-optimized version of the GO! portal already exists. In response to some of these critiques of the GO! portal, FIG recently optimized the new GO! to be fully accessible on mobile devices.

Other proposals involve larger changes in Haverford’s infrastructure.  Some students suggest that existing solutions should be tweaked or (ironically enough) publicized in such a way that more students will engage with events. A solution that has been previously offered is to increase the use of the GO! portal, which was recently rebranded by FIG.

Casey Falk ‘16, a member of FIG, believes that “the GO! portal can function in a crucial capacity as a distillation and compilation of all of the Haverford-related information in one place— from SEPTA times to a club’s events as listed on the SAO website.”

Other students, like Rebecca Fisher ‘17, believe that more infrastructural changes are necessary for a more efficient and effective conveying of information on campus. Fisher argues that “Haverford has the need for a physical space on campus that distributes information reliably and in an organized manner.” However, Fisher believes that conventional spaces such as the DC and Campus Center billboards are not reliable and up-to-date enough to fulfill this function.

“At Haverford, you often have to go through multiple sources to get the information you want and it is more often harder than it should be,” says Fisher.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 1.22.07 AMUltimately, the major determinant of which events are attended relates to a student’s respective social circles. Stimulating posters and facebook events go a long way in initially securing a student’s attention. However, it is often the words exchanged over a meal or in passing between students that continue to resonate beyond an initial glance. Thus, it is no surprise that word of mouth is the most prevalent method through which students find out about events on campus. A central question that this leaves is how clubs and committees on campus can best generate the word-of-mouth advertising that is so crucial in determining the dispersal of information.

In the weeks and months to come, Haverfordians can expect to see an expanded attempt to increase efficiency of information dispersal from numerous groups on campus— including FIG’s promotion of the GO! portal, Student’s Council’s revitalization of the Weekly Consensus, and potential moves on the behalf of administration and students to improve the use of physical postering space in certain areas on campus.

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