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MSU: Agreement Reached on 'Welcome Packet' Controversy

Welcome Pack

Missouri State University, the Springfield News-Leader and the newspaper's parent company, The Gannett Company, have reached an informal agreement over how to resolve a dispute regarding the mailing of a controversial "welcome packet" earlier this year. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.

Student Welcome Pack, Inc., a Florida-based advertising company, sent the packet out in early June to nearly 7,000 college-age residents with ads that many considered inappropriate or offensive. One was an ad for Planned Parenthood with a condom attached, and the words “Welcome to MSU!” at the top. Another ad was for an adult store in Springfield.

Now, that company has mailed out letters of apology to the same people.MSU’s chief counsel, Clifton Smart, says the university held talks with the News-Leader in coming to the informal agreement because both it and Student Welcome Pack are owned by the Gannett Company, and because the newspaper played a role in the original packet.

“The News-Leader marketing folks had sold the ads, including the ones that we thought were offensive and inappropriate in the packet, and so that’s why they were willing to take the lead and help resolve this,” Smart said.

MSU had considered filing a lawsuit against Gannett, claiming that the packet constituted trademark infringement. The university’s name was included several times, as was a large picture of the MSU campus. MSU’s official logo did not appear in the packet.

According to Smart, the agreement stipulated that Student Welcome Pack must mail out a letter of apology to the 6,900 recipients of the original packet, clarifying that the university had no part in the original mailing. In the letter, he said Student Welcome Pack also apologizes for anything that was seen as offensive, and provides a contact number.

The letters of apology were mailed from Florida on Thursday and are expected to arrive in local mailboxes this week.

Smart said the letter of apology was the primary point of the agreement.

“And then the News-Leader also agreed to run a story, which they did last Friday, publicizing the notification that had gone out, and issuing an apology for the confusion and any mistake, if folks thought the packet came from the university,” Smart said.

Smart added that the News-Leader did not disclose in its initial news coverage of the controversial mailing that its advertising department had been involved.

A spokesperson from the News-Leader declined to comment on the matter, saying only that the agreement was primarily between MSU and Gannett. KSMU tried to contact the president and publisher of Student Welcome Pack, Patrick Dorsey, but a representative from his office said he was not available for comment.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.

One ad in the original packet was from Planned Parenthood, and included a condom. These are some of the contents of the original 'welcome packet.' Some of its recipients found it offensive. Clifton Smart is chief counsel for Missouri State University.