Wow. $780,000. That's a lot of money. Especially for a basic change to a university logo. It's downright offensive as college students foot the bill for substantial tuition increases.
As the University of Colorado tells it, it needed the new logo in a bad way. Its four campuses had a "hodgepodge of logos," leaving the institution at a branding disadvantage that led to a marketplace confusion.
"It's important for the University of Colorado to be consistent and coordinated with its messages and images," CU spokesman McConnellogue told the Boulder Daily Camera. "In a world where people are bombarded by images and messages, we can't afford to be fragmented and disconnected in how we present ourselves."
As a graduate of CU's Boulder campus, an active supporter of CU's various athletic and artistic efforts, and an appointee to a CU diversity commission, I never really saw the problem.
But even if we accept McConnellogue's explanation as gospel, there are many questions that remain. Why, for instance did the "rebranding" effort take two years? Why did the university hire an international company to design the logo when it could have utilized enterprising students from any one of the university's business, communications or design departments to get the job done?
McConnellogue maintains that the delay is the result in multiple changes in university leadership and defends the cost, saying funds came from interest earned on a university fund managed through the president's office, and that no tuition, donor or state funds were used to pay for the project.
Maybe he misses the larger point. Over the last several years, CU has sent its taxpayer-funded lobbyists to the state Capitol to plead for more state money. It has endorsed and supported significant back-to-back-to-back tuition and cost increases for students at all of its campuses.
If CU is so broke it needs to balance its books on the backs of students, it shouldn't be lavishly spending on something as silly as a logo.
On the day after CU publicly released the new logo, I posted the news on my Facebook page. The response was swift and nearly universal: this was the wrong thing for CU to do. There was even a sense of disbelief and betrayal amongst friends who, like me, bleed the school colors of gold and black.
The naysayers included a close friend who, as a CU student, actively supported efforts to increase alumni involvement. One of my favorite CU political science professors noted that the funds could have paid for seven tenure-track faculty positions for an entire year "or if you want to translate to undergraduate courses, it would pay for adjuncts to teach approximately 120 courses (assuming semester pay of between $5,500 and $6000)." Others offered to design the logo for as little as $500.
When asked how faculty might react, the Camera reported that "Boulder Faculty Assembly chairman Joseph Rosse, a business professor, expects faculty members' reactions will be fairly ambivalent. Since the logos haven't changed much, Rosse said, it won't have a huge impact on faculty members aside from switching out letterheads and business cards."
I had to read that twice. The logos "haven't changed that much." For $780,000. The Boulder Weekly summed up its disappointment as follows:
Now it's nine months [after CU's own self-imposed deadline to get the job done], and CU has finally released this long-awaited logo. We were really expecting something impressive, considering how long it took and how much money was spent. Maybe a new, intricate, interlocking CU in 3-D, embossed in real gold?
Um, no. The new logo looks pretty much like the old one. And the groundbreaking change in university nomenclature? Calling CU-Boulder the "University of Colorado Boulder." Yes, that's right, no hyphen, no "at," no comma. You would have to pay even more if you actually wanted to hire people who know how to use the English language, apparently.
CU, like most public institutions across the nation, argues that universities become beacons for local job creation. But not here. CU used Landor, an "international design and marketing firm based in California" to get the job done. McConnellogue remains committed to the idea that the investment will pay off. "We not only expect to recoup the cost of the project, but we expect to have a substantial return on our investment beyond that initial money we paid," he added.
But how exactly do we quantify this and will any such analysis include the lost benefits that could have been realized had CU spent the funds on a more worthwhile cause?
The buck should stop--or make that all 780,000 of them--should stop with CU's elected Board of Regents. Not a single one voted no, with only Regent Joe Neguse, a Boulder Democrat, abstaining from taking a position.
CU has played a role in many of my life's most lasting memories. I enjoyed football Saturdays as a kid, spent four of the most incredible years of my life in Boulder, and bought my children CU t-shirts before they were even born. The logo looked fine to me.
Upon hearing of this wasteful spending, however, I will have to think twice before sending my kids there. Not because I don't love CU, but rather because I can't trust its leaders to spend the funds it already receives responsibly.
Jessica P. Corry is a Denver attorney and writer. She serves as Special Counsel to Hoban & Feola, LLC, a policy analyst with the Independence Institute, and is currently completing a book titled "Victim Nation" under the Phillips Foundation's Robert Novak Fellowship.