Gates: Sidewalk flyers are an unnecessary tradition

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Matt Gates, Columnist

Coming to tour Northwestern as a high school student, I noticed the flyers, some faded and torn, some brand new, that plastered sidewalks across campus. Although this obviously was not a major reason for my choosing NU, it did seem to me to be a great campus tradition that would allow me to keep updated on everything that was going on around campus. However, this tradition is perhaps neither as necessary nor as convenient as I believed.

A freshman on the Northwestern University Class of 2017 Facebook group recently called attention to the downsides of this longstanding campus tradition. As the student pointed out, once club meetings and productions have passed, NU employees are left with the painstaking task of removing the torn and faded remains of colored paper and the leftover pieces of tape.

The student added that although there is a rule that campus groups are supposed to remove the flyers once an event has passed, it is rarely ever followed. But is it even necessary to continue this tradition at all?

Between rushing from activity to activity during Wildcat Welcome and then from class to meals, to meetings to my dorm, I admit that I have rarely taken the time to examine these flyers during my first month at NU. I doubt I am alone. I have noticed far more students finding out about activities at the activities fair, over social networking or through word-of-mouth than I have seen students staring down at the ground as they walk to Tech.

The weather also doesn’t help the case for posting flyers to the ground. When it rained a few weeks ago, all that was left was a soggy and illegible mess taped to the ground. When it dried, University employees had to clean it up. Although I have yet to experience a Chicago winter, I think I would rather find out about an event over Facebook than stop on the sidewalk on a cold and windy night. Let’s not forget that if it ever gets muddy all these flyers will be good for is determining whether the last person to walk past Norris was wearing boots or sneakers.

Better alternatives exist for making students aware of what is going on around campus. The Class of 2017 Facebook group currently has 1,940 members, making it nearly the size of the class of 2017, itself, which is made up of 2,000 students. It is evident from these figures that most students already choose to use social networking to become more involved in the NU community. Even for those who do not, there are numerous alternatives that would not involve extensive labor for university employees.

Upon visiting other colleges during the application process, I remember seeing bulletin boards posted in central locations on other campuses. When I visited my high school friends at other schools in September, I was surrounded by a flurry of colorful flyers as I walked down their dorm hallways. Aside from flyers advertising dorm-specific events, the walls of my dorm, Allison, generally remain bare.

It would be far more effective and efficient to establish several main locations, physical or digital, at which students can access all information about organizations and events that might appeal to them. Although this quirky tradition may make NU seem unique to prospective students, I doubt it’s the reason anyone comes here. It is both the quantity and quality of opportunities at NU that make this school great. And these opportunities can be best showcased somewhere other than on the ground.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].