Ryan Carey-Mahoney: Does the University really need a facelift?

Most students return from summer break with a nice tan, some new clothes and a sleek haircut.

GW will also start the year off with a new look. After two years of planning, the new University logo is set to be revealed Sunday as part of the University’s rebranding campaign.

As a school in the middle of a bustling, media-obsessed city, GW was never the “typical college experience.” But as a student, I’ve always felt the University cares a little too much about its appearance in the public eye. In 2010, The Hatchet reported that the University increased the number of staffers within its Office of External Relations to help promote its departments, faculty and academic programs and to improve messaging.

That’s why it’s no surprise that at the heart of this rebranding campaign is the University’s desire to change how others perceive it.

To help design the logo, GW hired two branding agencies, FutureBrand and 160over90, whose clients include the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Microsoft, UPS, Nike, the city of Boston and several universities nationwide. And although University officials have repeatedly declined to disclose how much this expansive campaign – and the Aug. 26 launch celebration in University Yard – will cost, the estimate is .in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the Miami Student, the Miami University of Ohio student newspaper, the school spent around $300,000 on billboards and advertisements alone. Michigan State University’s student newspaper, The State News, reported that MSU spent approximately $478,000 on its rebranding campaign in 2010. Both universities hired 160over90 – one of the two firms GW has brought on – for their campaigns.

Flashy logos and catchy slogans are all well and good, but this all seems like a distraction from the University’s most important focus – providing its students a worthwhile education and fulfilling college experience.

I understand why the University embarked on this campaign. GW is hoping to morph into a more prominent research university, but to do that, it first has to market itself as one. When you think of universities like Harvard or Yale, you think of stately ivy-covered buildings, high-profile research and prestigious professors.

But a rebranding campaign is not the best way to build an institution’s prestige. Funds for the rebranding campaign could have gone toward upgrading Gelman Library or improving financial aid.

From the constant construction of campus facilities, to new majors and minors, to the new Auntie Anne’s in J Street, it’s no secret that the University is undergoing significant changes. We don’t need a rebranding campaign to boost our image; there are already tangible examples of “image enhancement” all across campus.

The entire rebranding effort seems more like a sports manager’s attempt to bolster a struggling team’s fan base than a campaign to actually promote the University’s standing among other institutions.

We should aim to improve GW’s educational reputation, foster growth and entice potential students to enroll based on academics, instead of wasting time and precious tuition dollars on redesigning a logo.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see the new face of GW, hear stories told in the mobile studio that will roll into University Yard for the unveiling event and enjoy some free snacks. But at the end of the day, can we really justify using money that could have been allocated elsewhere?

At some point, we have to step back and ask ourselves, “Is this really worth it?”

Ryan Carey-Mahoney, a junior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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