From the moment freshmen walk through the Arch during Wildcat Welcome week, Northwestern students are confronted with an array of colorful flyers pronouncing various campus groups, meetings and events taped to the pavement beneath their feet. But after a dose of Chicago weather, all that’s left is torn tape and faded shreds of paper.
Weinberg junior Eric Brownrout wanted to find a solution to the faulty flyer system which has served the student body for years. So he and a team of fellow students created an online catalogue of campus flyers called pvmnt (pronounced pavement) to provide campus groups with a new and more effective outlet for advertising.
“Freshman year I was struck by the fact that there’s so much going on around campus, but it seemed silly that it was hard to find out about them,” Brownrout said. “There was nowhere where the work and effort on flyers was saved and could be tapped into. I had an idea to store and share these flyers like a gallery.”
Launched the last week of August, pvmnt is currently run by a team of three Northwestern University students, including Brownrout, Weinberg junior Tunde Kelani and McCormick sophomore Phil Meyers.
“pvmnt was born out of a mutual frustration between Eric and I about the way events are advertised on campus,” Kelani, who is head of marketing, said. “I know there were a lot of times when I’d miss an event just because I missed a flyer and it was really frustrating to have that happen.”
The primary goals of the website are to organize and centralize events on campus into one place, to better social lives of NU students and to reduce flyer waste on campus.
“They have been flyering as long as I’ve been here – 1988,” said Timothy Spahn, the groundskeeper foreman from the facilities management department, in an email. “About 7 years ago they developed ‘flyering zones’ that have made it a little more manageable for clean-up.”
Spahn estimates that the department spends about 500 hours per year on clean-up.
“It is still too much in my book,” he said. “We do some hand pick up weekly but power wash the zones 2-3 times per year.”
Several student groups have tried to change the flyering system before, but Allison Potteiger, communications coordinator for the Office of Sustainability, said the department will focus on supporting pvmnt and promoting student use of the website over the traditional method for its environmental friendliness.
“The interesting thing is that flyers make us unique,” Brownrout said. “But I think there’s a way to capture that characteristic and culture of Northwestern – not get rid of it but evolve it, in a more eco-friendly and ultimately more practical way.”
pvmnt will be releasing a mobile application this winter, when flyering becomes most difficult.
At the activity fair earlier this month, pvmnt recruited over 180 student groups to use the website with hopes of increasing usership.
“With the site and app, we want to be like the next Yik Yak,” Kelani said.
Brownrout added, “If anyone is interested in learning more, or any web developers are interested in joining our team, we would love for them to reach out to us.”
Currently the site is serving two campuses: Northwestern and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and hopes to expand their site and mobile app to other campuses in the coming years.
Editor's note, Oct. 10 at 11:26 a.m.: This article initially misquoted Kelani as saying "We want to be the next Yik Yak," instead of "We want to be like the next Yik Yak." North by Northwestern regrets the error.