STUDENTS PASSING THROUGH the Unicentre in December found themselves staring at large Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers advertisements. According to Caitlin Campisi, internal commissioner of the Graduate Student Association (GSAÉD), students filed several complaints, which resulted in GSAÉD and the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) gaining power to veto ads in the Unicentre.
“The Community Life Services (CLS) rents out ad space for outside companies within the university centre,” said Amalia Savva, SFUO president. “We received a complaint for one of the ads, and the ad was for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which has close relations with the Alberta tar sands.
“There were three extremely large banners of this ad,” she added. “After that, the SFUO took initiative and forwarded the complaint to Community Life Services and asked them to remove those posters.”
The University Centre Management Board (UCMB), which governs activities in the Unicentre, has four student representatives, two from the SFUO and two from GSAÉD. The board called a meeting upon receiving the complaints.
“It was an unfortunate thing that those ads went up, but it was actually a positive decision that came out of the UCMB, which is that students now have a say in the ads that go up in the [Unicentre],” said Campisi.
The advertisements in question went up due to an oversight. Newad, the advertising company the U of O currently employs, didn’t send the advertisements to CLS for approval like they usually do—no one saw the ads before they were posted. According to Savva, the advertisements were taken down as soon as the problem was detected.
“The Community Life Services were very responsive to our request; they had the posters down within a week, so that’s excellent,” she said. “Now we are in a situation where before ads are put up in the University Centre, they are sent to myself and Caitlin Campisi, and then we have five days to either approve them or not approve them.”
A proposal for a university-wide advertising policy has also been brought up.
“The university will be looking at advertising on campus,” said Marc Duval, CLS director. “It’s been expressed by members of the SFUO and GSAÉD, the need to look at ethical advertisement. The issue has been put on the table.”
Duval said no official committee has been formed, but the discussion has begun. Campisi, Savva, and hilmeslf all agree advertisement in the university should be student-centric.
“This is about collaboration, and that’s the message I want to get out,” said Duval. “Both our student groups are working together to make sure the ads that go up are in agreement with out mandate.”