As students, fresh or weary from their summer breaks, walked onto Bascom Hill for their first day of classes Tuesday they were treated to a commercial and educational display on Bascom’s lawn. The display, which promoted a new grocery store in Dejope Hall, featured dozens of plastic flamingo lawn ornaments embedded all across the grassy expanse below Bascom Hall. The display itself might come off as esoteric, but is actually a call-back to the infamous Pail and Shovel student government party which ascended to power in 1978.
The party, whose (hilarious) history should be explored by every University of Wisconsin - Madison student, received its namesake from one of its primary campaign platforms. They pledged to convert the student government budget into pennies and dump them onto Library Mall. Students would then take from the pile with pails and shovels, hence the Pail and Shovel Party. These notorious jokers were also responsible for the first Statue of Liberty on frozen Lake Mendota (which promptly burned down and has since been replaced).
The first pink flamingo flock on Bascom, which arrived on the first day of Fall classes in 1979, was 1,008 flamingoes strong. This past Tuesday’s flock was much smaller but the callback itself was both a creative way of advertising and an immersive way of introducing new students to Wisconsin’s rich history.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Bascom’s displays are not nearly as thought-out or interesting as the pink flamingoes. The University’s Campus Events Services Office (CESO), which runs the reservations for displays on Bascom, needs to do a better job of controlling the quality of what ends up on the hill. Most displays are a few half-hearted signs that vie for my attention as I hustle up or down the hill to class. Generally, the displays utterly fail to excite or inform in any way. Since the advertisements are always for groups that deserve more attention, CESO’s lackadaisical approach to controlling who and what ends up being displayed makes sense. But Bascom Hill should spend less time clamoring for students’ attention and more time being the soothing grass expanse that we all know and love.
Unfortunately, CESO lacks the necessary resources to adequately quality-control the advertisements on Bascom Hill. And to demand that they only approve innovative or creative displays on Bascom is unfair; however, the student organizations that use CESO should make an effort to create interesting and more dynamic displays. I don’t mean to suggest that every single student organization should litter Bascom Hill with pink flamingoes or some other frivolous item. Student organizations looking for attention should only approach CESO to book Bascom Hill if they have a solid promotional idea that works well on the hill.
CESO offers a variety of different promotional services and their staff is both friendly and extremely cooperative. Student organizations need to expand their horizons beyond displays on Bascom to the entire variety of advertising means on campus.
David Ruiz is a senior majoring in english and minoring in computer science. Send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.