One year later, GW’s rebranding still sour

Editor’s note: The Hatchet recently added a group of new opinions writers as part of the newspaper’s biannual hiring process. With GW’s rebranding effort a year in the books, we asked aspiring opinions writers to answer the question: How should the University really be marketing itself? Chase Hardin, a junior majoring in international affairs, wrote the following:

After spending two semesters observing logos in a sans serif font and new catch phrases on the University’s website and flyers, I’ve realized that the problem with GW’s branding isn’t the theme being pushed.

It’s how profoundly unsubtle the whole thing is.

Pretentious, self-indulgent, and awkward, GW took the unspoken allure of a university located in the heart of the capital, and plastered pompous and juvenile slogans across campus, codifying a certain way of thinking that never should have been committed to paper.

It’s not that they’re inherently false, but these slogans, like  “Whether on campus or in the White House, four years can change the course of history,” perpetuate an annoying attitude that seems to believe that simple proximity to federal government buildings means an individual student can change the course of history. Yes, that individual can, but the slogans send the wrong message.

GW should be seeking high school seniors who will change the course of history regardless of their location, and see this University as the tool or pathway to best achieve their dreams. GW, in and of itself, will not change history. But it can help the people that will.

I may have been naïve, but GW was my top choice because of the quiet dignity of a university in the shadow of the White House. I didn’t need a blatant and aggressive pitch about how I’ll be able to intern with countless agencies, politicians, lobbying firms and nonprofits. It was implied, acknowledged, but never touted as the school’s raison d’etre. It was one of a multitude of reasons to come to GW.

Eyes will roll, but the old catchphrase, “Something Happens Here,” is a prime example of the subtle dignity and promise of an undergraduate education at GW. It wasn’t politically driven, but for politically inclined students, the implication was obvious. If that student wasn’t driven by an urge to shape legislation, then it applied to them, too.

Politics unquestionably dominate our school’s subconscious, but the District is a thriving city with literally thousands of opportunities for something to happen here in all sorts of areas.

University officials who adopt and abuse the “only at GW” hashtag might best sum up the problem.

This slogan gets a bad rap. Students who think they’re too cool for it sneer and mock. But stumbling across Karl Rove doing his grocery shopping in Whole Foods is legitimately something that’s only going to happen here.

I’ll be the first one to criticize inappropriate uses of #OnlyatGW, but for the most part, it’s a subtle nod toward what makes GW awesome. When the University incorporates it into their branding, though, a line has been crossed. Something has been lost. What once felt organic and natural now feels canned and artificial.

I would hope that GW could find a way to return subtlety and nuance in recruitment efforts. Frankly, we don’t need an incoming class of faux-politicos who think that an acceptance letter to this University equates to the potential to reshaping of history. It doesn’t. Any student can change the course of history, regardless of their location – let’s find a way to entice those who will do it with or without a D.C. address.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.