MU like a cow

I usually steer clear of regional politics and stuff like this for two reasons; firstly, I feel strangely detached from the antics of politicians and frankly find them tediously dull, inane and plain dunderheaded and secondly, my blood pressure is very important to me and I like to keep it low.

When you touch my alma mater, though, I am compelled to respond.

I went to the Memorial University of Newfoundland and studied with some incredible people. I was able to work with world-renowned experts in several fields of religious studies and complete a B.A. (Hons) and an M.A. of which I am rightfully proud. The years I spent at MUN introduced me to people who have shaped the foundations of my adulthood and taught me to learn, understand, analyse and discover.

I'm proud of what I did there and of the fact that I went there.

The Newfoundland blogosphere has been fairly humming lately with MUN's decision to go bland. (see posts by Owen's Mom, SkyLarkD, Cove Blogger) No longer will they be Memorial University of Newfoundland, rather they are to be Memorial University. The aim is to bring MUN up-to-date and revitalise the image of the university in the eyes of the world. With the careful consultation of branding specialists and marketing experts, the university is hoping to implant the image of MUN's new logo in the minds of the international academic community.

They're missing something.

Education is at once a tradition and a path of innovation. While we are all-too-conscious of the fact that the innovation is important, we forget that people are also paying for the tradition of a university. When you reinvent the image of something, you disassociate that thing from its past. While I can see how MUN might want to forget about it's recent blunders (see Craig Welsh's excellent post on the topic), they are forgetting that they will lose the positive features of the Memorial tradition; either forgetting, or they just don't care.

The new name is bland. It could be anywhere and memorialise anything. MUN is not a bland university. People don't go to university to get a bland education. People go to get degrees that shape the way they think, hone their talents and skills so that they can move forward through the world and make them somehow unique and employable. Bland you can get anywhere.

MU logo

The new logo is devoid of the traditional crest and has been stripped down to a misshapen rectangle superimposed with negative space text and "UNIVERSITY" in standard caps beneath. What exactly that red blotch is supposed to represent is not really clear, but some have posited that it looks an awful lot like Alberta, tipped on its side. In removing the crest and reinventing a more generic logo, they debased the perceived solidity of the educational foundation of MUN. It looks like a place to buy a piece of real estate, not a place to learn some of the most important skills you'll ever be taught.

Someone paid too much to an ad company for something….. uninspired.

So now I can say I went to MU. Or not.

What I can say is that I'm having Alumni Affairs take me off their donations list and am seriously rethinking advising my child to go there in years to come.

What if this marketing campaign is reflected in the programming and teaching?

Must go lower blood pressure now.



13 Comments Add yours

  1. Pingback: Way-finding » MU
  2. Rj says:

    I”d decided I wasn’t going to venture into the MUN logo change debate, at least on my own site, but since the can of worms is open here I’ll throw in my own two cents.

    I don’t especially like the new logo. It seems a little lack-lustre. I have three degrees from Memorial and an official name change would bother me more than this logo switch. I don’t really think this logo has the power to dazzle the masses into forgetting the moniker they always used. It’s just not that good.

    Oh, and to me the ‘red blotch’ looks like rocky-cliffs jutting into the ocean (not unlike those in your header).

  3. vickyth says:

    Hey RJ, I agree. I’m not convinced that the change is actually an improvement in any way. It seems to me to be change for the sake of change as opposed to actually making a positive difference.

    As for the cliffs imagery – I hadn’t seen that, but you’re probably right. That must have been what they were going for. That or an iceberg, maybe? I dunno. It just doesn’t do anything for me.

  4. jon hayes says:

    the new logo reminds me of U.S. university logos that are used to sell baseball caps for their basketball teams. It is simple and streamlined and I too hope that MUN’s integrity doesn’t reflet the new branding strategy. I have been very impressed with MUN’s library resources since I’ve been here, though I’m not a student. It is one of the best I’ve seen.
    On a side note, there is already a school nicknamed Moooo U. And that is where I went. The University of Guelph in Southern Ontario is the main agricultural school in I think the country. There are many cows around (and horses and sheep and chickens),,,,hence the nickname I suppose. In fact Guelph is going through a re-branding thing right now. They took down the huge old barn in the middle of campus to build a classroom complex reminiscent of the Oprah show’s set…….I was some angry when they tore down the old barn.

  5. I agree, but haven’t had the gumption to work up a sweat about it. It’s disappointing for alumni and certainly lacklustre, but that may or may not have any effect on the functioning of the university itself. When my kids are looking at university in ten years (eight? eeek!) we’ll look at the big picture.

    I wonder if they’re going to have a fire sale on all the jackets etc. with the old logo, or give them to charity. Anything but binning them – what a waste.

  6. sarai says:

    Ouch. This hits close to home.

    I was a proud (very proud) OUC student – Okanagan University College. Then some suits, in the form of the provincial government and UBC, decided I would be a UBC student. The school split into UBC Okanagan and Okanagan College. (The latter got a bland logo without crest, too.) Now many of our decisions are made by Vancouverites in Vancouver. They don’t understand the distinct Okanagan identity. The college still does, and has maintained it, but they didn’t have my program.

    So, I joined the OC alumni association, and would rather donate to them if I ever can do so.

    I have hopes that in five or ten years, UBC-O will have a regional identity and be a nice strong Interior institution. I have to hold out that hope. I’m not all that confident, though.

    MU(N) ought to be okay, though. Unless I missed something, it’s still being run from Newfoundland and not from Halifax or Toronto. You can take Newfoundland out of the name, but I bet you can’t take it out of the university.

    By the way, all the OUC branded merchandise sold quickly at 50% off.

  7. sarai says:

    Oh, and as for the teaching and programming going the bland and trendy route, I agree that would be a huge mistake. I don’t think it could go on for long without them realizing it and changing back, though. It would cost them too much.

  8. sarai: I dunno, bland and trendy seems to be just the ticket for an awful lot of people. But yes, in the light of centralization clean out of the province, we’re still OK.

    jon: “some angry”… you _are_ soaking up the local speech, ain’t ya b’y? 🙂

  9. Mark says:

    I think it is shallow to look at a logo and then conclude that everything’s gone to hell. I’m going to give it a chance…I am of course more interested in what other kinds of things they do.

    And for me, if it’s a bit bland, it’s better than a generic crest that looks exactly like every other crest. Before getting all uppity about ‘our crest’, I challenge people to pick it out of a police line up with the crests from 10 other Canadian schools. I think the logo is interesting and certainly different.

  10. vickyth says:

    Hey Mark,
    You'd lose that challenge. I could spot a MUN crest in a hundred others. To worry about the path a university is taking when presented with a new scheme for how they want the world to see them is, I think, fair game. Especially when you see the logo as an integral part of their entire marketing, research and recruitment campaign. The tremors and repercussions of such phenomena can be felt all the way through the university system, as you should be well aware. Changing the face of the university can often result in a change in the thrust of is academics.

    Thanks for calling me shallow. Appreciate all the kicks in the teeth I can get. It takes cojones to insult a person anonymously on their own blog, but not necessarily brains.

  11. Mark says:

    Hey, I’m just giving my opinion. Didn’t mean to insult you. My name is Mark Andrews. You have my email address. I think it’s unfortunate that you would not accept that people have opinions that are different than yours. I want to give this a chance, is that so wrong? I think that people who are getting freaky about a new logo need to see what else is to come. And I was challenging people. Perhaps I’d lose that challenge to you. I have 2 degrees from here, I’m farily observant, and I would find it hard to tell the difference between MUN’s crest and Dal’s or McGill’s or U of Calgary’s or whatever.

    And I don’t think the logo is bland and trendy (well maybe a bit trendy). I think it’s rugged and confident. Unless rugged and confident is bland. Very Russell Crowe. Cheers, Mark

  12. vickyth says:

    Mark, I have no problem whatsoever with you liking the new logo or expressing that appreciation. Give it a chance and, by all means, like it if it appeals to you.

    You are entitled to your opinion about the logo and the other stuff that goes with it. I will never deny you that. I’ll even let you keep posting them here. Had I disliked dissenting opinions, I would have deleted your comment. The part that pissed me off was your choice of language. “Shallow” is generally not a complimentary term, although I rather appreciate being called uppity.

    Challenge my ideas, by all means, but let’s drop the ad hominem commentary, okay?

  13. Mark says:

    Sorry – I do like your blog, and I didn’t mean to insult you. M.

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