In corporate America, everything is sold under a label, brand name or some silly slogan. Apparently our university’s administration seems to think this is a good idea for universities as well, as they recently opened the polls for a new slogan for USF.
The list of 11 suggested slogans include such gems as “Education. … And Beyond,” which seems more fitting for a Toy Story sequel. “Creating Your Future — Today” could be the tagline for a time travel-oriented company in a Michael Crichton novel, but is hardly something that would entice me to attend school at USF.
The real question is, why does USF need a slogan? While USF has toyed with positioning lines such as “Discover USF” in their marketing, we have not had a slogan in the last 47-odd years, and, according to USF’s Web site, the school is “is the second largest university in the southeast and among the top-20 largest in the nation.” Seems to be working fine without a slogan.
The sudden change of heart can hardly have anything to do with the success other universities are having with such slogans, either.
It’s not like the catchy slogan of the prestigious Virginia Wesleyan College “Bridging the gap between the classroom and a career” is reason why thousands of would bang down the doors of the school’s admissions office, demanding entry to a university with such a hip motto.
Yet, USF has recently spent thousands of dollars on a “new” logo that took two years to design. Now we are asked to vote on a slogan that can compete in blandness only with the recently released logo.
The last couple of years were not the best for USF as far as public relations is concerned. After all, there are not many students that can tell tales about turning on CNN on a Thursday morning and see John Ashcroft announce that a current professor at their university was arrested as a suspected terrorist.
When I told a friend in England of former professor Sami Al-Arian’s arrest only hours after it had happened, he had already heard it on the BBC. In the Internet age, bad news travels faster than ever. Being name-checked by the Attorney General didn’t exactly help the public perception of USF.
Granted, we can hardly blame the administration for this, but it seems to be rather shortsighted to counteract the recent bad news with a hollow slogan and a dull logo.
The way the administration handled the case leading up to the arrest, as well as afterward, did not exactly get the university noted for being pro-academic freedom. It also led to the American Association of University Professors condemning USF for not playing by the rules. Esteemed and controversial professors are likely to think twice about considering a career path involving our esteemed campuses. And who can blame them? If a tenured professor can be put on paid leave indefinitely following a TV appearance, anything can happen. New logos and slogans will not erase the AAUP’s condemnation of USF from the academic community’s collective memory. Instead, the university will have to work hard in the coming years to regain the respect in the academic community that it has lost through this major fumble.
As far as USF’s perception among the general populace is concerned, this attempt at re-branding is understandable, but will quick fixes such as a slogan and some newly painted signs around campus really offset the fall-out from the adverse publicity generated since Al-Arian appeared on The O’Reilly Factor?
Unfortunately, a few cute words probably won’t erase a year’s worth of bad decisions. And if we absolutely have to have a slogan, can we at least have something less bland?
Sebastian Meyer is a junior in environmental science and The Oracle’s Opinion Editor.