University News

Majority of students favor eliminating tableslips

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On the heels of the announcement that the Undergraduate Finance Board voted to end funding for tableslips, 52.4 percent of students said they would approve of eliminating tableslips in favor of centralized announcements, according a recent Herald poll.

The poll found that 27.3 percent would “strongly approve” of the move. A total of 43.5 percent said they would disapprove of eliminating tableslips, while 4.1 percent said they did not know or had no answer.

UFB President Jose Vasconez ’10 said the poll’s findings reflected the group’s initial thoughts on tableslipping. “There’s a lot of support for this,” he said.

Brown University Activities Committee Vice Chair Salsabil Ahmed ’11 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that while the approval rating “is not as high as we would like, we believe it is a promising first step toward a greater consensus.”

The finance board’s vote to eliminate funding for tableslips is the first part of an effort to phase out the practice. Last semester, a steering committee examined the state of advertising by student groups at Brown, Ahmed wrote. The report the committee produced, along with yearly polls conducted by the Undergraduate Council of Students, led to the discussion of eliminating tableslips, she added.

“Past (UCS) polls have also demonstrated that tableslips are not the most effective means of advertising, and tableslips do not effectively target upperclassmen,” Ahmed wrote.
Vasconez also questioned the effectiveness of tableslips, calling them “somewhat of a useful service.” They miss out on “25 percent (of the student body) at the very least,” he said. A new system of more centralized advertising could target all students equally, he added.

Advertising events online takes advantage of the fact that people already use electronic methods to advertise, Aida Manduley ’11, BUAC secretary, said. One problem with this method is that it is not portable like tableslips are, she added.

Student leaders have received limited response to UFB’s decision. Ahmed wrote that the reaction from students was “mixed.”

Very few people came to the panel on advertising, Manduley said. The few who attended raised concerns that were discussed, she added.

After the announcement of UFB’s decision to end funding, a few more responded by e-mail to student leaders, Manduley and Vasconez said.

In the e-mails, students complained there was no need to eliminate tableslips and that they were a Brown tradition, Vasconez said. “Tradition doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing,” he said. He added that there does not seem to be an “organized movement” against the elimination of tableslips.

According to The Herald’s poll, 50.1 percent of underclassmen disapproved of the elimination of tableslips, compared with 35.5 percent of upperclassmen and 43.5 percent of the overall population. Vasconez said he expected more disapproval from freshmen and sophomores because they use the dining halls regularly, as opposed to upperclassmen who may no longer be on a meal plan.

Students have had mixed reactions to the potential elimination of tableslips.

“Tableslips are a part of Brown culture,” Kelly Fennessy ’13 said. While she said they do not necessarily influence her to attend events, they are “entertainment.”

Jordan Taylor ’13 said he would find the elimination of tableslips “really upsetting.”
Stephanie Tin ’13 said that fiddling with tableslips in an awkward situation can be useful, but that she would not be particularly upset if they were eliminated.

Some heralded the positive environmental effect of eliminating tableslips. Lucy Boltz ’12, who said she was “really supportive” of eliminating tableslips, said tableslips are a drain on resources. She said she works a dinner shift at the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall, after which she has to clean up all the tableslips by throwing them away instead of recycling them. Eliminating tableslips would be more “ecologically conscious,” she said.

Questions of effectiveness were also on students’ minds.

Boltz said she felt that tableslips were an ineffective method of advertising. People come to events because of personal interest, she said, and direct marketing would be more effective.

But some students wondered if the new ways of advertising online would be effective since they require students to seek out information.

Robbie Nelson ’12 said “tableslips are a lot more passive” than other forms of advertising like Morning Mail, which he said he does not read.

Reading tableslips requires no action on his part, Taylor said, adding that he probably would not visit a Web site to find events.

“For the portion of the population that does go to dining halls, (tableslipping) is the most effective way by far,” Taylor said.

Tin said she was “pretty sure” she would never check a Web site that listed events on campus. She added she could not think of an alternative that would approximate the same effect on students.

The decision to completely eliminate tableslips has not been made. The issue will probably be discussed next year, but “that is the direction that we’re heading in,” Manduley said.

The Herald poll was conducted on March 22 and 23 and has a 3.5 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 714 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which The Herald administered as a written questionnaire to students in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson during the day and in the Sciences Library at night. For the sample of just freshmen and sophomores, the margin of error is 4.7 percent. for the sample of just juniors and seniors, the margin of error is 5.2 percent.