The “customer stories” page of an email marketing platform boasts about the University of Minnesota athletics department’s use of its software to achieve “championship-level results.” The testimonial discusses how the athletics department has revamped their email marketing, using innovative strategies to get more fans and students to open up emails and click on things. The whole thing is polished and well done. I am left impressed by the University’s drive and ability to gobble up the crumbs of my tuition-stricken wallet.
I usually read the athletics department’s “Student Update” emails as I sit on my phone and wait for the Campus Connector to take me back to West Bank after a long school day. They seem to come in late afternoon and usually inform me about some obscure sport's game where I can win a free fashion item if I attend. As these emails have become somewhat a routine for me, the veneer has slowly rotted.
The reason why is that these long, single-column University emails always contain an ad. I don’t mean the “Presented by X company” ones that I have pretty much accepted as a result of being a human being who has watched TV before. What I am talking about is the ad you get before the schedule of sports events. It varies, but most often it is an ad for some terribly named apartment with a lumpy outline and a multicolored facade of corrugated metal, depressingly pale brick and excessively bright cladding.
This may seem like nothing on a campus where there are even ads at the front desk of our dorms, but these ads are an unnecessary and annoying intrusion. We’ve ceded enough of our lives and information to companies and corporations we’ll never see; our time at the University can be a respite from this trend. The University should end the policy of advertising on University emails.
Chiefly, ads on University emails carry an air of endorsement. Their presence on emails suggests that the University suggests or recommends a product or service. As I was looking for an apartment for next year, I was inundated with names of various buildings, all with varying degrees of quality and exploitation by management. College is a new, unfamiliar place for many, so a product’s placement in an official email is an island of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.
Has the University investigated and vetted all of its ads? We don’t know if the University Student Legal Services has had a good relationship with the advertised property. We are unsure if the property is just another student slum.
Additionally, the ads intrude into our private emails. My school-provided email contains things regarding school, and I’d like it to remain so. The particular athletics department email I mentioned above does have an unsubscribe button at the bottom, but students shouldn’t have to lose their ability to receive reminders about athletics to avoid ads.
The school enters a unnecessary grey area when it places ads in its University emails. It would be best if it simply avoided this conundrum by discontinuing its practice of allowing ads on University emails. On a campus with a buildings named after companies and sponsored professorships, the least the University could do is give our eyes a break.