To the Editor of the Daily Beacon:
We offer the following concerns about the recently announced “Big Orange, Big Ideas” campaign to promote the University of Tennessee through the development of a brand. We hope that the administration will accept our constructive criticism as representative of a popular voice on campus which does not share the vision of UT promoted by the “branding” campaign.
The promotion of our university through the advertisement of our brand and slogan is an inefficient use of our resources. The budget of the “Big Orange, Big Ideas” campaign, which is far from negligible, represents money that could be spent on improving the quality of our university instead of our image. Many professors and students are consequently confused as to whether our brand is being used to promote their “big ideas” or if their “big ideas” are being used to promote the brand.
Whereas the “branding” of UT is designed to distinguish our university from others, it is effectively a sort of conformity to the trend of branding. The slogan “Big Orange, Big Ideas” is not specific to UT’s identity because all similar universities have school colors and strive for “big ideas.” A distinguished university will attract attention, recruit bright minds, and build its reputation on the basis of real achievements, which UT certainly does not lack.
Furthermore, branding is the wrong strategy to promote our university because branding is directed at consumers who seek commodities, a category to which UT does not belong. In marketing, the purchase of a product is the essential measurement of a brand’s success, whereas a university’s success is based on immeasurable, albeit real, variables, namely the acquisition of truth and the improvement of humanity through knowledge and action. Commodification of a university undermines efforts of scholarship and academics.
The reduction of our university’s identity to the slogan “Big Orange, Big Ideas” jeopardizes the complexity of something that is necessarily complex. We do not mean to critique the work of those who designed the slogan, but to suggest that the nature of a university makes a slogan unnecessary. A brand and a slogan may even be counterproductive in that those who seek an intellectual community are likely to be repelled by branding on principle.
We share in UT’s pride and desire to promote itself, and this is precisely why we are skeptical of the branding campaign. The message conveyed by our new brand and the ethics of branding in general conflict with the primary interests of our university.
As a first step toward reasserting our identity as something more than a commodity, we propose that our university remove the “Big Orange, Big Ideas” banner from the outside of Hodges Library. The Hodges Library is a monument to the complexity of ideas and the universality of human knowledge. This is the site where school colors and simple slogans are the most out-of-place, and removing the banner would be a dignified recognition of the value of UT.
The Progressive Student Alliance:
Kathleen E. Bohstedt, retired professor, Department of Philosophy
John Bohstedt, professor emeritus, Department of History
Les Essif, professor of French studies
Michael Handelsman, professor of Latin American literature and distinguished professor in the humanities
Randal L. Hepner, Ph.D., Department of Religious Studies
Tricia Hepner, associate professor, Department of Anthropology
Peggy Jackson, UT alumna and current graduate student in geography, MS
Zak Koenig, student manager at RecSports, coach - Tennessee crew
Benjamin Lee, assistant professor, Department of English
Katherine Newell, graduate student in history
Lydia M. Pulsipher, professor emeritus, Department of Geography
Student alliance challenges branding campaign
To the Editor of the Daily Beacon: