University Of Colorado Tries To Shed Party School Reputation With New Branding Campaign

The University of Colorado Boulder maybe more known for an on-campus "420" marijuana smoke out than it is for its academic rigor, but a new rebranding campaign announced today seeks to change that perception.

Called "Be Boulder," the campaign focuses on the accomplishments of CU-Boulder alumni and faculty, via University of Colorado's Facebook page:

"Set in one of the world’s most inspiring and entrepreneurial learning environments," the campaign website reads, "the University of Colorado Boulder enables each member of our community to reach their potential and to Be Boulder through an extraordinary range of challenging academic, research and service opportunities."

The website celebrates CU researchers who are developing safer, longer-lasting rechargeable car batteries, alumni who have flown in space, faculty who have received the MacArthur "Genius Grant," and more all the while commanding the reader of the ad to "Be Courageous" or "Be Genius" or "Be Innovative."

CU hired design firm Pentagram, which has worked with other colleges like the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California, to design the campaign and spent nearly $70,000 on it The Daily Camera reports.

Although often high placing on "Best Colleges" lists, CU-Boulder has struggled to shake its "party school" image with frequent placement on Playboy's top party schools list -- CU-Boulder came in at No. 3 in 2013 and first in 2011 -- and an infamous unsanctioned on-campus pot party every year on April 20, an annual day of celebration of marijuana culture.

With recreational marijuana legalized in the state in 2012 and legal pot shops set to open to adults Jan. 1 2014, university leaders have been likely very concerned with the possibility of a reinvigorated pot celebration which in previous years attracted as many as 10,000-12,000 people to Norlin Quad to light up. But the aggressive campus shutdowns in 2012 and again in 2013 have been effective at warding off throngs of pot smokers and it appears that the campus will continue to pursue the ban.

And that might just be the best thing for CU-Boulder's student-body, because as it turns out, being named a "top party school" is often followed by school and city officials coming down hard on partiers.

At Penn State University, which placed ninth this year on the Princeton Review's party school list, but it was No. 1 in 2009. This American Life based one of its most popular episodes on examining what made PSU so raucous. Then-Penn State President Graham Spanier admitted he wished they weren't ranked No. 1.

Spanier then rolled out a 30-point plan in 2010 to curb drinking at Penn State, which included raising alcohol and court fines, adding police and eliminating a well-known excuse for partying called Senior Week. Greeks were pressured into new policies to restrain social gatherings.

While students may love it, school officials seem to universally hate having their institution ranked as a top party school. Spanier hated it in 2009, the University of Georgia hated it in 2010, Ohio University hated it in 2011, and West Virginia University denounced it in 2012.

With the campus' history of partying, The Boulder Daily Camera notes that at least one faculty member at CU-Boulder thinks the ads could be easily satirized with "Be stoned. Be drunk. Be happy."

But CU's Vice Chancellor for Strategic Relations Francis Draper told newspaper that the best way to combat the stereotype is to "reinforce the positive" and not "argue against the negative."

Campus officials plan on monitoring the impression the public has of CU-Boulder over time and only time will tell if this rebranding was successful.



The Top Party Schools 2014: Princeton Review