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Complaint gives University Inn new advertising policy

Published: Monday, February 17, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 23:02


Mikayla Kapp

The University Inn and Conference Center is operating under new restrictions concerning advertising and services to the public.


The State Board of Regents updated its policy regulating auxiliary enterprises after an audit showed several university businesses were competing in the private sector.


According to Spencer Jenkins, assistant commissioner for public affairs for the Utah System of Higher Education, all auxiliary enterprises must be self-supported unless the Board of Regents approves a request otherwise.


The current policy states auxiliary enterprises such as the University Inn and Conference Center cannot offer services to the general public, with exceptions like when it provides an educational experience to campus visitors or if the equivalent service is not available in the area.


Two new sections were added to the policy, one concerning advertising and the other requiring each university to have its own policy regarding competition. Jenkins said the policy hadn’t been updated for 16 years, and the board was aware it needed to be updated before the audit.


The section on advertising particularly needed updating because methods have changed so much, Jenkins said. The policy needed to be updated to include specifications about internet and social media. Under the new policy, the University Inn and Conference Center may advertise through USU’s webpage, internet, social media and email, but otherwise not to the general public.


Guest records were not analyzed to see if the inn is providing lodging to the general public. Tim Vitale, university marketing team lead, said the inn is completely self supported. He also said revenue from unaffiliated events makes up less than 7 percent of income, a statistic consistent with the findings of the audit. The inn doesn’t expect any problems financially from complying to the new policy.


“We are in total compliance with the Board of Regent’s policy,” Vitale said.


The July 2013 audit reviewed a selection of operations, including the University of Utah’s Red Zone stores and Weber State’s sales of Apple computers in addition to USU’s University Inn and Conference Center. The Red Zone stores were cited for selling and advertising to the general public and failing to pay taxes on any of the $1.9 million in revenue.


A section in the audit said local hotel management in Cache Valley complained the inn negatively affected their business and were particularly concerned about the inn’s special tax subsidy. Local hotels declined to comment.


Jenkins said it’s important the new policy establishes a process to identify issues, like changing advertising methods, and understands what is happening from both the business and the university side. The policy regarding competition now required from each university must set up a grievance filing process, where businesses will be able to voice if they feel negatively affected.

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