Community works to remove communication barriers in an environmentally friendly way

One of the most highly touted promises of electronic communication technology has been an anticipated reduction in the need for and use of paper as a means of communication.

It's no small irony, therefore, that the rapid expansion of communication technology at Emory has been accompanied by a seemingly meteoric rise in the practice of student organizations plastering sidewalks and plazas with brightly colored flyers to encourage attendance at major events. Letters denouncing the practice for creating intolerable eyesores across campus have appeared in both Emory Report and The Emory Wheel.

The burden of cleaning up the mess left behind by such flyers and posters falls on the Facilities Management Division. David Turner, director of the Roads and Grounds Department, said that in dealing with flyers or posters of student groups placed in public areas, his crew removes posters or flyers that: cause a safety hazard, such as obscuring signs or wheel- chair curb cuts; announce events scheduled on dates that have passed; and have been damaged by weather or foot traffic. Posters and flyers also are removed upon the request of the administration.

Despite the logistical headaches that Facilities Management must deal with, many leaders of student organizations say that in the absence of a centralized campus communication system to inform students in advance about forthcoming events, they feel pressured to resort to taping flyers on sidewalks to drum up sufficient attendance at events that are quite costly to stage.

Senior Tracey Ryan, president of the Student Programming Council (SPC), said that at present, the campus offers no forum for communication with students that's more effective than flyers. "We are able to reach the graduate students by e-mail, but the undergraduate population is not wired in the same way," said Ryan, who believes that a coordinated system of bulletin boards, kiosks and electronic communication would alleviate the need for massive plastering of flyers. "Because the SPC is funded by the students, we are responsible for getting the word out to students about the events. We need to be able to publicize our events through every venue possible."

Ryan said she wholeheartedly endorses the efforts of Judy Raggi Moore of the French and Italian faculty, who also chairs the University Senate Committee on Campus Life. Raggi Moore believes that the student groups' need for effective communication about their events and the Emory community's desire to keep the campus grounds free of unsightly paper can both be accomplished through a single strategy: developing a centralized communication plan and hiring an "electronic postmaster" to implement and monitor it.

Last year, Raggi Moore and the Campus Life committee began researching the issue of centralized electronic communication and brought a proposal to the full Senate recommending that the Senate issue statements: encouraging the University to use electronic means as the preferred method to communicate and distribute information among its members; encouraging a reduction in the use of paper and tape; and discouraging the use of paper signs on community property.

In response to the committee's proposal, President Bill Chace has asked Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Harriet King to seek the opinions and support of the deans and directors for creating the position of electronic postmaster. Raggi Moore said the committee has sent a letter to the deans and directors on the issue. In addition, Chace has asked King, Ethics Center Director James W. Fowler and Richard Levinson of the public health faculty to begin formulating the guidelines for moderation of a new campus communication system. Using those guidelines, the electronic postmaster would determine which types of information should be sent to which subsets of the Emory community via which methods of distribution.

While the committee's proposal calls for the endorsement of electronic communication as the preferred method, Raggi Moore is fully aware that paper communication is a part of the Emory culture that is not going away any time soon. After the Senate voted to recommend approval of the Campus Life committee's electronic communication proposal in February, the committee began working on the issue of regulating paper usage as a means of campus communication. Topics discussed last spring include: creating an Office of Information to work with the new electronic postmaster to centralize the distribution of paper information; creating multiple bulletin board locations in the areas of highest traffic to replace the current practice of plastering paper on sidewalks; creating regulations for paper advertising; and creating sanctions for violations of posting rules.

Raggi Moore believes the time is right for Emory to adopt a centralized communication system, as evidenced by pledges of support from both University Senate President Luke Johnson and President Chace. "The committee has done all the groundwork," Raggi Moore said. "I have lots of faith in the Senate to carry this work forward."

--Dan Treadaway

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