A new slogan and bucket of paint do not make a new USF

It’s becoming harder to ignore USF’s appetite for a new image. But the new slogan, “Touching Lives, Improving the World,” the new logo and the more “traditional” red-toned coat of paint slapped onto the administration building, can’t cover up the university’s unbridled past.

President Judy Genshaft lucked out when the FBI stormed into former USF professor Sami Al-Arian’s apartment in February and arrested him on terrorist-related charges. Genshaft no doubt sang the Feds’ praises because the U.S. government had validated what she’d been saying all along: Al-Arian was a safety threat.

The professor’s imprisonment probably made the USF makeover team’s job a lot easier, too. When Al-Arian was jailed, Genshaft fired him. The frequency of news stories published and broadcast about the controversial professor and this university slowed. The digs by some calling South Florida “Terrorist U” were downgraded to a bad nightmare. Those sitting in the now salmon-colored administration building didn’t discuss it in public. But not talking about the nightmare didn’t keep Freddy Krueger off Elm Street, and administrators shouldn’t think their new slogan and other bells and whistles will keep the nightmare of “Terrorist U” from resurfacing.

USF is a university stained. A name dragged through the mud with a president hell bent on picking it up, pressure washing it and calling it Bulls Country.

People outside Florida have a hard enough time deciding whether USF is near Miami or in San Francisco. Tampa Bay rarely makes the list of possible locations.

An embarrassingly low percentage of faculty, staff and students voted for USF’s newest branding mechanism, the slogan. If the people who literally fight to park here every day don’t express their views about USF’s future, why should anyone else care?

Not surprising USF is trying so hard to gain its own identity more than 40 years after it was established. Surrounding the tedious task of naming USF, one myth says the university was named the University of South Florida because it is located south of the University of Florida. With a mentality like that, no wonder USF hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves among its peers. USF may be a Research I institution, but too often it’s treated like a second tier.

The university’s makeover team has done nothing that couldn’t be accomplished by the Fab Five on an episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The difference is the university crew used student money to do it.

To make any real improvements will take a makeover team with the talents of Dr. Phil.

Students won’t go home or visit friends during the Labor Day weekend and say, “Hey, Mom, have you heard our new slogan?” They’ll say, “How does USF expect me to graduate on time if the classes I need are all closed or not offered?”

USF needs a president that will fight for the students and a list of offered classes that doesn’t fill up on OASIS two hours after class registration begins.

A few years ago, Genshaft said she wanted USF to undergo an image change like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs dropped their orange uniforms for the Super Bowl winning pewter and red. Genshaft liked the Bucs’ facelift. The football team’s new image boosted team and fan spirit. Will South Florida have the same luck?

Time will tell. It will be years before USF is thought of as the university “Touching Lives, Improving the World,” instead of the university where more students hear the letters U-S-F and think, “You Stay Forever.”

Kevin Graham is a senior majoring in mass communications and is a former Oracle Editor in Chief. usfkevin@yahoo.com