Hold the Jalapeño: University Pans Burrito Ads Placed in History Class

October 01, 2008

Hot sauce and history do not mix with university policy in Montana, The Missoulian reported today.

The University of Montana has put a stop to a deal between a history professor and El Diablo, a local burrito restaurant, the newspaper said. Under the deal, a $250 donation to the history department was traded for advertising space in a course.

Kyle Volk, an assistant professor of history, placed stickers promoting El Diablo on a syllabus for “The Americas: Conquest to Capitalism,” his survey course covering American history to 1896, with an enrollment of 250. He also mentioned the restaurant by name during class, and projected its logo on a screen.

The university, which said it had no knowledge of the sponsorship agreement, was not amused, declaring that the deal violated campus policy. The university has chosen not to punish Mr. Volk, however, calling the situation a “good-faith mistake,” the newspaper reported.

Mr. Volk said the idea stemmed from a squeeze in the department’s budget last spring, when a lack of funds forced it to finish the semester without paper or toner for its copy machine. The department chairman said he regarded the deal as “a witty way to draw attention to the plight” of the department, not as an intentional defiance of university policy.

But the budget problem remains, Mr. Volk told The Missoulian. “This school and schools like it are going to have to think about more creative ways to compete, and whether or not we like it, that’s going to mean more money,” he said. —David DeBolt