They are ubiquitous in airports, convenience stores and collector’s shops. But one place you won’t find shot glasses is on the Rinker Green at Palm Beach Atlantic University. At least, not anymore.
On Wednesday morning (April 18), three public relations majors assigned a dairy industry messaging campaign for their senior project caused a stir by handing out free cookies and milk in shot glasses with the campaign’s slogan: “Teats Out.”
After less than an hour, Director of Residence Life and Student Accountability Kara Wenger told the students that the distribution of shot glass to students violated the PBA's zero tolerance alcohol policy. Anyone who came by the “Teats Out” table after 11:45 a.m. was given a Dixie Cup instead.
But the shot glasses weren't the only point of contention surrounding this PR campaign. According to PBA senior Angela Sakolari, one of the students working on the project, another campus employee had told the students the previous day that their "Teats Out" slogan and logo of a cow lifting up its shirt to reveal its udders did not uphold campus standards.
Sakolari said she then saw the individual remove marketing posters and balloons displaying the slogan from around campus.
“At the end of the day, our message is what it is and it’s “Teats Out” as in the teat of a cow, and we aren’t talking about anything else other than that,” Sakolari said. “We aren’t trying to go against the PBA values.”
According to PBA's School of Communication and Media public relations website, "Through coursework and internships, you will learn how to utilize highly effective public relations practices."
To that end, it was the dairy industry that approached the school earlier this semester about creating a public relations campaign targeting PBA Millennials. Research shows Millennials and Gen Z consume less dairy food than older generations. The student-created concept - to be implemented at other university campuses if successful - aimed at promoting the health benefits of milk and other related products.
After Wenger confronted the three students about the shot glasses, Sakolari called her professor, Dr. Wes Jamison, who asked to speak to Wenger directly. The two had a discussion by phone out on the Rinker Green where several students standing nearby could hear part of the conversation.
The two spoke at length about the details of PBA’s alcohol policy and whether his students were in violation of any rules. Wenger told Jamison that she would send him the policy to look at for himself.
“It should not be anything associated with the production of alcohol,” Wenger was heard telling Jamison over the phone. “It’s the connotation.”
In a sit down interview with a The Beacon Today reporter the following day, Wenger expressed concern that handing out the shot glasses in a public place had the potential to “put other students in a compromising position.”
Wenger said multiple students and faculty members approached her office with concerns about the shot glasses before taking matters into her own hands.
“I feel strongly about PBA culture,” she said. “We should work with everyone to make sure we are all on the same page.”
An investigation of the PBA “Residence Life Handbook” and code of conduct, “The Navigator,” reveals the alcohol policy is ambiguous on this issue.
The “Residence Life Handbook” says that “alcoholic beverage bottles” are not allowed to be used as decorations in dorm rooms and may be confiscated.
“The Navigator” prohibits any “possession of drug paraphernalia, such as bongs” and shirts “advertising a message that is inconsistent with the lifestyle and mission of the University,” but it does not directly address shot glasses as a collector’s item.
Sakolari stands by her conviction that she and her classmates were simply employing a marketing strategy of appealing to their audience, and that they were not promoting any unwholesome messages.
“We are targeting millennials and it is trendy to collect shot glasses,” she said. “So why not make part of our campaign something that they can take with them and collect?”
PBA student Jezebel Perez liked the shot glass idea and agreed with Sakolari that the campaign should not have been a problem.
“I think it’s a little silly,” she said. “We are a Christian university so I can understand that, but as long as it’s not alcohol specifically, shots can be taken for anything, so I think that would have been fine.
Sakolari believes that school administration should not have interfered with a class project.
“I get their concern for it,” she said. “But at the same time, you need to let students learn and educate themselves through the way they’ve been taught.”
Nonetheless, Sakolari remains grateful for the positive feedback she received from both students and faculty.
“I think all of the faculty were excited to see students actually executing what they’re learning,” she said. “And I didn’t hear one student come up and say they were offended by it.”
Despite the controversy, Sakolari is glad to have had the opportunity to learn from the experience.
“You have to go with the flow, and you have to be able to flexible,” she said. “You have to be able to say, ‘This is in my way right now. What can I do to change it?’”