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Enacting the element of surprise: Bradley’s Red Response

Photo via BradleyUniversity Instagram

They won’t be hiding in a bush or peering from the top of Bradley Hall, but if you’re wearing Bradley apparel or red clothing on Fridays, the new Red Response may be looking for you to reward you with new Bradley merchandise.

The initiative, which is an effort from the Student Activities Office that is supported by the university’s marketing department, is hoping to bring a little more school spirit to the Hilltop each week.

“There’s a whole slew of benefits [to showing that school pride],” Director of Student Activities Cara Wood said. “One, you can potentially win something and two, we think that when students feel a greater sense of pride and connection to Bradley, they’re more likely to be engaged in their classes and engaged in student organizations or programming.”

Since starting around five weeks ago, the process has been fairly simple. The team meets up at a secret location on campus. Then, after grabbing a box of handouts, they scan the area for faculty, staff and students donning red or Bradley attire.

Each person who checks the school spirit box receives a B-Shield-branded red tote bag designed to be collapsed, along with a slip about joining the Red Response team. If winners are comfortable with being photographed, the team will take photos to be later posted online by the marketing office.

Tote bag passed out by Red Response. Photo via Matt Lucas.

Conceiving the idea before spring break, the marketing office reached out to Wood and the student activities office about the lack of red on campus. Hoping to see more red in the classroom, quads and offices, the idea continued to take shape.

“We started talking about ways in which we could bring some campus spirit and help encourage people to wear red or Bradley attire on Fridays,” Wood said. “We had some extra merch that we thought would be appropriate to give away and so I said ‘Let’s just go ahead and get started now, why wait for fall?’”

After scanning through a database of class schedules and setting up a calendar for when to scour the campus, Wood and the student activities office reached out to faculty and staff through their B-News email newsletter for volunteers to help hand out the items.

One of those volunteers was a newly-hired student fees advisor eager to get acclimated to Bradley’s campus.

“Initially, I heard it from B-News and that following week coincidentally our office happened to be the first one they came to,” Justin Mills said. “They came in, gave us the bag, gave us all the fun stuff and I was like ‘That’s really cool’. There was a slip inside that said ‘If you’d like to volunteer, reach out.’”

Having now volunteered for two of the four Fridays the response team has been out, Mills says the process has been fun and that campus residents have largely been receptive.

“We got to see a lot of Bradley students and a lot of cool Bradley gear and take a lot of good pictures of some students,” Mills said. “We were there for around 30-40 minutes and tried to catch kids as classes let out.”

Admitted he was pretty fired up when the team stopped at his office in Swords Hall, he likens the success of the Red Response team’s process to that of the notorious circular panopticon prison layout.

“It’s like the panopticon. The idea is not that you’re continually being watched but you have the possibility of being watched and that in itself is enough to curb behavior,” Mills said. “In the same sense, we’re going around the school and not announcing where we’re going to be and creating the [thought of] ‘Well I should wear this because I don’t know if they’re going to show’.”

Leaning on the element of surprise, the team has so far visited locations such as the Business and Engineering Convergence Center, Bradley Hall, Swords Hall and the Markin Center. While they tour the campus, Wood offers up the potential for a collaboration between the Red Response and other student organizations.

“Next semester, if we get some clubs or athletic teams to help out then it can be mutually beneficial,” Wood said. “It could be something like ‘Hey, we have this great promo coming up next week. While I’m handing you this red item, maybe I can promote myself or promote my club.’ I’m totally open to that.”

Hoping to rope in other organizations, Wood hopes that the volunteers will never be scarce but that they’ll be more invited to spread school pride as well. Both Wood and Mills view several benefits to a more engaged campus, and a partnership could be a step towards that goal.

The success of the positive reinforcement is largely yet to be seen, but Wood has noticed the number of items given away is pretty steady.

“We’ve been seeing ebbs and flows,” Wood said. “We’re trying different places on campus so that we can see different students and right now we’re averaging about 60 items every week that we’re giving away.”

The hope is that the group continues into the fall semester but returns with a variety of items. Bounced around are the thoughts of pens, t-shirts, tumblers, cups and even keychains as possible giveaways. It all depends on the budget since items are created through a vendor and are not items found in the Bradley bookstore.

As the Red Response gets set to make their final trip to campus today, be on the lookout for volunteers and know that on Fridays the Red Response wants to see your school spirit.

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