Controversial T-shirts back on campus
For the second year in a row, Jeremy King set up shop outside Cooper Hall in order to attract students who want to apply for a MasterCard. However, it is not only King’s presence on campus that is under question, but the T-shirts featuring drug references that were distributed in exchange for completed credit applications.
King and associate Eric Lundberg said they come to USF every year to promote all types of credit cards. Lundberg said a student group at USF gave them permission to advertise in front of Cooper Hall. However, Greg Jackson, coordinator for Marshall Center reservations, said he has no paperwork allowing the two to be on campus.
Jackson said credit card promoters are only given authority to be near Cooper Hall if they are at the Bull Market on Wednesdays and are limited to the Elm Street sidewalk.
“They can’t roam around or go up near the breezeway or into classrooms,” Jackson said.
Last November, King set up stands in front of Cooper Hall for the same reason. Tuesday afternoon, King and Lundberg directed all further questions to their business office.
However, the number given by King connected to a company that a spokesman said was not associated with either vendor. The spokesman for On Campus Marketing also stated that the company does have activity on campus and was at USF a few weeks ago, but not this week.
It is unknown which student group, if any, may have invited King onto campus. Michelle Carlyon, a spokeswoman for USF media relations, said she had not heard of the group being on campus. She said it is not unusual for credit card promoters to be on campus, but the giving away of the T-shirts promoting drug use seemed unusual.
As of Wednesday evening, Carlyon was still looking for any information about the two men concerning their permission and purpose on campus.
USF attracts many business promoters, from credit card companies to Ybor clubs. All vendors must receive permission to be on campus and solicit, according to media relations director Michael Reich.
There is a process to be followed, and not just anyone can give that permission.
“Approval usually comes through one of the vice presidents,” Reich said.
He added that student groups cannot give permission. Thus, King may be violating rules if his claim is that a student organization invited them to campus.
Concerning the T-shirts printed with drug references, Reich said he was not sure whether they would have been allowed because he had not seen the shirts and did not know exactly what was said on them. He said what was being distributed makes a difference as to whether it is allowed.
“When the request to solicit on campus is considered, you have to consider everything. You have to know what is being given out,” Reich said.
Reich said the issue is not cut-and-dry, either. There are different forms of free speech to be addressed. He stated that in general, things like that are looked at by using certain standards, which come in the form of a sort of sliding rule between what contributes to the learning environment and to what detracts from the learning environment.
Vendors or companies offering services can be found advertising or promoting their wares in other areas of campus, such as on cars in campus lots. Reich said he was not aware of any vendors with permission to place advertisements on cars but said it is difficult to police such action unless the activity is reported by students or staff and investigated by the university.
As for vendors outside of Cooper Hall and other buildings, Reich said there are building supervisors who should help patrol the area and look for problems.
“Building supervisors are one group that watch and the University Police (watch), but (UP) obviously have other concerns, such as campus safety,” Reich said.
Regardless of who is or is not watching, Reich said it was difficult to comment on King and Lundberg because he had not received any information concerning their presence on campus, including whether the two had gone through a process to solicit on campus.
“A group could come on campus, and (it) doesn’t know about the solicitation process or willfully violates it,” Reich said. “That is unfortunate, but it happens.”
News Editor Grace Agostin contributed to this report.