Green grass, blue skies, red shirts. Visions of grinning young adults set to a generic upbeat song. No, this isn’t a commercial for your local dentist – it is yet another Northwestern promotional video to be played for unsuspecting RED101 visitors and prospective students across the Midwest. It seems as if NW has promotional content for every occasion, but how do current students feel about it and are these videos worth the price paid to obtain them?
I have no doubt that when I finished paperwork to attend NW that I unknowingly signed a dotted line that gave them the right to use any pictures for promotional material. Makes sense, not a problem. What I do not remember agreeing to, however, was having said material take precedence over the personal lives and privacy of students on campus. Maybe it was in the fine print (that I did not read), but that does not mean that it is fine. Throughout my time here, I have noticed how marketing is often placed as priority number one. At events, moments that should have been unique were repeated for the sake of a better camera angle. Numerous times I have opened my eyes after praying in chapel or P&W to see a camera lens in my peripheral vision. Furthermore, as someone who can barely see over a crowd, having a photographer step in front of me at a sporting event or campus activity not only reminds me of my height deficit, but also is a reminder of who is the priority for these events. This leaves students frustrated and questioning what the intent behind them is: student enjoyment or publicity?
Of course, we greatly appreciate our media team and all that they do for NW. They are highly skilled and passionate about their work, and whenever I see them at sporting events, they are often in pursuit of the best shot, running just as fast as the athletes themselves which is no easy feat. I know that years from now I will look back at photos from past events, grateful that there was someone there to preserve those moments. There is absolutely a time and place for pictures, but worship and discipleship events are not one of them. Students who attend these events should not have to worry about how they look, and the presence of cameras quickly invokes self-consciousness and causes students to hold back in fear of having their private conversations with God plastered on the college website. There is a way to demonstrate Northwestern’s commitment to faith, friendship and learning without intruding on any of the students that embody them.
This year, we have one of the largest freshman classes yet, and I am positive it is not due to pamphlets, posters and Instagram posts; but rather, the personality and people on campus. No one decided that Northwestern was the school for them based on a photograph. Prospective students should know that we are a Christian community by the way we act and treat others, not because they saw a picture of students at a praise and worship event. Let’s let those students on campus enjoy their time here and have the ability to grow in their faith and personal lives without having cameras in their faces. We are students, not a photo opportunity.