Opinion: Where is safe from advertisers?

Mosaic Guide to Starting the New Semester
Emily Moore /THE REVIEW
Victoria Calvin pesters people in Morris Library who were pestering her and others to sign a petition.

Editor of Copy

Everyone on campus has grown accustomed to the Christian groups that approach students on The Green, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protesters outside President Assanis’s mansion and, of course, Kirkbride Jesus.

However, there is a disconcerting and growing trend of advertisements and solicitors encroaching in residence halls, student centers and academic buildings, like GoPuff sneaking in and hanging placards on every door handle they can find in the residence halls.

I recently had a frustrating and degrading encounter with solicitors in what is supposed to be the sanctuary on campus: Morris Library.

While researching a term paper by the circulation desk, I was approached by a man in his 40s bearing a handful of pamphlets and a tablet. He asked if I could spare a moment to talk about signing a petition to get better people elected to local office.

When asked if he had permission to approach students in the library, he beat around the bush before admitting that, no, he was not with the university and he did not have permission from the administration, but the security guard had let him in. After several minutes of telling him he couldn’t bother students here and him continuing to harass me, he finally let up and walked away.

Not five minutes later, another man bearing the same pamphlets and tablet, started with the same spiel. Exasperated, I told him the same thing, and again, he continued to try and reason with me. Cue several more minutes of frustrated bickering, he paused.

“I’m sorry, I’m just so caught up in your eyes,” this strange man, easily a decade older than me, said.

At my wits end, I told him to f— off.

This encounter is just one of what must’ve been several pertaining to these men, who represent just one of several organizations similar to GoPuff and TikTok that have made it a habit to approach students in areas that should absolutely be off limits to businesses.

It is explicitly stated in the university’s Sales and Solicitations on Campus policy that soliciting interactions on campus from an organization not sponsored by a university entity are expressly prohibited.

“Solicitation may only take place in the designated location. Vendors are prohibited from actively approaching students,” according to the student centers’ vendor policies.

“Solicitation of information … [is] only permitted by the Community Council or Residence Life & Housing staff in the performance of their duties,” according to the residence hall regulations for sales and solicitation.

The fact that, after almost 200 years as a degree-granting institution, it has never been deemed necessary to have a specific policy geared toward solicitation in the library, compared to student centers and residence halls, should speak to how absolutely appalling it is that the practice still occurs.

If students are not free to peacefully do work in the library, where is safe? If students can’t live in their residence halls without strangers sneaking in, where is safe? If students can’t walk through the student center without weaving through business casual clothing pop-up shops, where is safe?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that opportunities for the corporate world to invade student spaces at an institution that is first and foremost an academic institution are being prioritized over the safety and success of students.

The administration and the entire university’s bureaucracy must refocus on their purpose of enabling and propelling our education, even when that means sacrificing students subscribing to the email lists of or investing in products from their corporate sponsors.

The places for business on campus are in the Lerner College and on Main Street, and the university must draw the line there. This encroachment into other academic and residential spaces is unacceptable and should be outrightly and actively condemned by those in power at the university like Assanis and Provost Morgan.

The university is an academic institution before it is a business and it is time the administration remembers that.

Victoria Calvin is a Copy Editor for The Review. Her views are her own and do not reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at VCalvin@udel.edu.

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