Northern Iowa Student Paper Runs Ad Featuring Rival School, Sparks Campus Controversy

The student newspaper at the University of Northern Iowa has “sparked surprise and some criticism” on campus for running an advertisement featuring a nearby school.

In its most recent issue, The Northern Iowan published a full-page color ad on its backpage (see below) promoting summer courses at the University of Iowa. It was purchased by officials at UI, a mega-huge research university located roughly 90 miles from UNI’s campus.


According to a UI marketing director, “We know that some students may be coming home for the summer and … may want to pick up a course on campus at Iowa. We know the place students will be looking is the paper.”

Seems logical enough, especially since UI offers “significantly more summer coursework” than UNI. Yet, the sight of another school — especially an influential in-state rival — being publicized in their campus newspaper has apparently sent some Northern Iowa students into a tizzy. The UNI student government president’s first reaction: “Appalled.” Complaints have streamed in to the newspaper and the school’s public relations office.

The main argument from the angry and appalled contingent: A campus newspaper shouldn’t betray its own school by publishing a promotion for something that might lead students away from the school (even for the summer, apparently) or hurt the school’s finances. Hmm.


In a note to readers addressing the controversy, Northern Iowan executive editor Linh Ta explained the separation that exists between the paper’s editorial and advertising operations and stressed that the ad is “not offensive in regard to gore, sexual or discriminatory content.”

Thus, school pride aside, the focus must be on free speech, a free press and the paper’s bottom line. As she writes:

“For us to provide you with our content, we need to consistently practice and protect our First Amendment rights like any other newspaper. And like any other newspaper, we need funding to sustain our production. … From an objective point of view, the UI ad fits with our policies and they paid the appropriate amount to run in our paper. From a subjective point of view, as a Panther myself, I could extremely dislike our sister institution and want to protect UNI and encourage enrollment here. But we’re running a newspaper. We will not censor or deny anyone a voice, be it an article or an ad. So love it or hate it, ads with black and gold are here to stay.”

What do you think?


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2 Responses to “Northern Iowa Student Paper Runs Ad Featuring Rival School, Sparks Campus Controversy”
  1. Will Haynes says:

    Good for them.

    Of all “offensive” ads that could have been run, this is probably the most inane to cause controversy. Good on them for sticking to their guns.

  2. If school is about education that why does this matter; there are tons of online options and continuing education classes that students can take; this ad just makes it easier to find a way to continue learning