Students begin online petitions to protest new academic logo

Multiple petitions have popped up online asking USF administration to either alter or get rid of the new academic logo that President Judy Genshaft unveiled two weeks ago. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/CHANGE.ORG

Students have begun to sign online petitions in protest of USF's new academic logo, which was released two weeks ago.

Students launched multiple petitions against the logo — a lime green bull — after the new design was released during President Judy Genshaft's fall address Sept. 5. Students are hoping USF administration will listen to their requests to change the design or completely scrap it.

With Genshaft’s retirement, effective July 1, consolidation of all three USF campuses — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee — and USF's preeminent status, Joshua Barreto, accepts the desire to change the block-lettered "USF" logo and describes the transformation as “out with the old and in with the new.”

But what if the “new” has prompted 1,785 signatures in 11 days against the new logo, which has been described by USF as linking all three campuses, but whose detractors have unfavorably compared it to the iconic bull used by the financial firm Merrill Lynch?

Engineering major Alexis Loukota’s petition has gotten the most attention, with mass communications major Andrew Fabacher sharing another petition on the USF Official Class Facebook pages. Loukota could not be reached for comment.

Loukota simply captioned the petition post: “We, the student and alumni body, don't approve of the new USF academic logo and would prefer to keep the current USF logo.”

Alongside Loukota’s petition to have the new logo wholly removed, Fabacher’s petition — which had 117 signatures, as of Tuesday — implored administration to change the color of the lime green bull. Fabacher took the design elements into his own hands and edited the lime green color to white.

According to Fabacher, the new logo does not look academic and would not serve well in a professional context.

“Creating logos and all the work that comes with it can be difficult, expensive and tedious,” Fabacher said. “I appreciate that they spent a lot of money to create that logo, so I don't expect them to throw it away and start over, so I would say the best solution would be to tweak the color.”

The partnership with SPARK media cost the university $200,000 to fund a yearlong marketing campaign.

USF Chief Marketing Officer Joe Hice said the lime green color decision was researched and was meant to stand out in front of the forest green background. For students who want to see a new color palette, Hice said the team is looking at different options.

Fabacher said he considered the old academic logo professional and said it molded well with USF’s appearance. He said creation of the petition came from the lack of communication between students and administration about the creation of the logo. He said he believes the conversation would have prevented issues that the logo is now having.

Hice said roughly 2,000 to 2,200 people were surveyed before releasing the new logo.

The university’s recognition around the country was totaled at about 1 percent from all demographics, according to Hice, which is why USF decided a change would be appropriate to market better. During the rebranding research, it was unanimous that everyone wanted a new logo because none of the respondents selected the current academic logo as their preferred choice.

Hice started compiling surveys during the summer by interviewing a group of 1,000 people with the assistance of IPSOS, one of the three largest research companies in the country, he said. The marketing team and USF reached out to approximately 300 college-bound high school students, the parents of the students and 300 people from the general community. Four smaller focus groups were conducted by the Academic and Cultural Engagement Program — a program for incoming freshmen — over the summer.

Barreto, a sophomore majoring in mass communications, was passed along the news by a coworker that a petition against the logo was making its way around online.

After signing the petition, Barreto shared the post to the Facebook class pages in hopes that others would voice their opinions on the matter.

Barreto said he thinks people are signing Loukota’s petition to have the entire new logo removed because they think it involves the U-shaped bullhorns worn by USF's athletic teams.  

Hice said the confusion is causing a higher negative response.

“The logo that we are proposing to change is not the Bull “U” from the athletic association,” Hice said. “We’re talking about changing the green box with the USF initials and serif typeface.”

Fabacher said he had emailed Student Body President Moneer Kheireddine and the Office of the President and has received no response. He said he does not plan to buy any apparel or merchandise until the logo is altered.

If the opportunity comes, Barreto said he has no issues speaking with USF administration about the petition or logo. However, he said it is probably too late since the design is in its final stages. 

Hice said he recognizes the social media presence online and is working to reinforce a positive look for the university.  

“I monitor with the agency that I work with, SPARK, and we’re all monitoring the feedback and taking it into consideration,” Hice said. “The logo has a chance to grow and mature; we are still a very young institution.”