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ISSUE 116 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2003

Editorial: Alterna-ad purchase flawed

By Nicole Grunzke
Executive Editor

Friday, March 14, 2003

The recent advertisement for St. Olaf in Mpls/St. Paul magazine is ridiculous.

The ad reads, "Alternative thinking: ideals to action," and shows a young woman with purple hair, dark lipstick, a fuzzy sweater and a tattoo on her leg. She’s looking down and smiling, apparently thinking alternative thoughts and happy with her outfit. We’ve never seen her around campus.

Graphic designer Mike Mihelich assured us that we have. "We asked ourselves, ‘Is this someone that we’ve seen on campus? And the answer is yes."

Actually, the answer is no.

This girl doesn’t attend St. Olaf. She’s not even a model media relations hired – the photo was purchased for the ad. Amy Gage, media relations director, said that they had only a week to prepare the ad, and therefore couldn’t use a St. Olaf student.

Speaking from experience, we know it would have been possible to do a quick photo shoot with a student and get it off to the magazine in time. As a former journalist, Gage should know – we’ve made tighter deadlines than that. Maybe it was just a little bit easier for them to buy the girl. If that is the reason, tell us. We will still criticize the choice, but don’t lie.

Maybe we don’t have a girl with a tattoo on her leg, but why fake diversity and alternative thinking? St. Olaf should not limit the diversity of future students by suggesting a universal look, but they are limiting themselves by connecting the word "alternative" to a female model who typifies society’s stereotype of "alternative" in the way she is dressed. This would be bad enough if it were one of our own students, but at least media relations could have claimed that they just randomly picked the kid. Using the model, though, it is obvious that they consciously perpetuated this stereotype.

The ad might work. It might be a great marketing ploy on the part of the college, and may draw in hundreds of alterna-girls and boys to our lily white, Abercrombie-infested school. We do need more diversity. The morals behind the ad, however, are flawed, and the ends do not justify the means.

Maybe we can find solace in the slogan. Marketing specialist Paul Pfeiffer said that media relations attempted to convey President Thomforde’s message that we have "a responsibility to action." "That is the key component," Pfeiffer said. "Action." Nowhere in this ad do we see action being taken. We see a girl posing as a St. Olaf student, looking "alternative." Is media relations trying to say that we’re taking action if we get a tattoo? Or how about if we misrepresent our school? Is that taking action?

We’re not sure where we stand, but media relations, you’ve got one down, one to go. Maybe Big Jeff’s Tattoo will hold an "I want to be alternative like that girl" sale.

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