Those pastel-colored sidewalk chalk scrawls hawking cheap well drinks at local bars are on the way out at KU.
Kansas University has a new policy this semester preventing outside businesses from using sidewalk chalk as a way to get free advertising on campus.
“Basically, we look at the sidewalk much the same as if we had a billboard,” said Don Steeples, KU senior vice provost. “And if we had a billboard, if you were going to use our billboard you would pay.”
KU will continue to allow student organizations to use sidewalk chalk to promote their activities on campus, modeling the new policy after similar ones in place at other schools.
Steeples said historically, local bars have been the biggest outside group using sidewalk chalk on campus. Their chalkings frequently detail things like drink specials and special events.
“I think there’s no secret that we’ve got an alcohol consumption problem on campus,” Steeples said. “So we view this as at least indirectly related to trying to discourage binge drinking.”
Businesses that don’t comply with the policy may be charged with cleanup costs, and — if the problem persists — could face criminal trespassing charges, Steeples said.
Scott Newell, co-owner of The Phoggy Dog, 2228 Iowa, said that while his business would occasionally use sidewalk chalking on campus for major events, he didn’t anticipate that the policy change would mean too much for his business.
“We’ll advertise in print, with the student newspaper,” he said. “And we have a large Facebook presence.”
Steeples said he’s heard a handful of complaints from business owners, mostly complaining about restriction of their free speech rights. However, he said he sees it as KU protecting its own property from improper advertising.
Some messages — like political messages — are still allowable under the new rules, Steeples said. The policy is aimed mostly at commercial businesses.
Some KU students said they actually liked having the sidewalk chalk messages around.
Colleen Brennan, a senior from Topeka, said while she understood the need to curb binge drinking, she actually read all the sidewalk chalk messages — not just the ones from student groups.
“I’ll probably miss the rest of the chalk,” Brennan said. “It gives you an idea of what’s going on outside of campus.”
There’s also a part of the policy regulating what kinds of chalk can be used — a type of spray chalk that required powerwashing to remove is now banned.
Andy Seemiller, a senior from St. Louis, said that while he didn’t mind the messages from bars, aesthetics mattered, too.
“They take a high priority in keeping their campus clean, which I do also respect,” Seemiller said. “You look around, this is one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever been to.”