Auburn University :: Theatre Banner Causing Controversy
WSFA TV Montgomery, AL
One word is turning a lot of heads and drawing much controversy. “I think it is dramatic,” says Joseph Ansell, Interim Dean for Auburn University’s Department of Liberal Arts.
The theatre department is promoting “The best little whorehouse in Texas” by hanging a banner on the theatre. It reads “Whorehouse coming fall 2005.” Ansell says, “Given where we are and the fact there is a lack of support for the arts in the region and certainly on this campus, getting people to pay attention is important.”
A little background will likely be helpful here.
Auburn University is a state land grant university. It is public. It is also a rather conservative environment.
The public relations quandries are: (a) this is the bible belt, (b) the banner is up as thousands of state high school students are on campus for a wide variety of camps, and (c) Auburn is considered by ‘some’ to be one of the world’s largest Baptist universities.
The latter is not true, of course, but it does – in a way – define the environment this little controversy is taking place within. Auburn actually started as a Methodist college.
Among the activities taking place on campus while this banner flies? Camp War Eagle (freshman orientation), band camps, cheerleader camps, sports camps, various conferences and much more. All draw not only students, but their parents, to the Loveliest Village on the Plains.
Some aren’t happy.
Me? I think it is harmless. However, the double entendre is not the banner message I would have chosen – given the environment. The one thing I learned in many years of promoting activities on university campuses is this – it is quite political.
So, how would you handle this PR problem? I wish the Theatre good luck.
The good news from the story? One of our graduates, Sally Pitts, was the reporter. Sally is a wonderful young woman and has a bright future in broadcast news.