Monday, March 12, 2012

Well, that's cute

My alma mater sent me an alumni e-mail today, which I thought was a clever spin job. My alma mater has been known as Carson-Newman College since its inception. The double name was the merger of the name of boys school and one was the name of the girls school that merged after the Civil War. (Please, don't ask me to tell you which was which...I forget.) The school has had academic "university" status since at least the 1990's, if not the '80's.

Time and again, though, various administrations have tried to get the name changed to Carson-Newman University. They even had a vote of the student body to approve the name change when I was in college [cough]over a decade[cough] ago. Of course, every time it went to the student body, it went down in flames with less than 2 percent of the student body ever going for it. Carson-Newman College students like going to a smaller college, if only in name. If we wanted a major university, the University of Tennessee is just 30 minutes down the road, with at least a half dozen other major state universities within a 4 to 5 hour drive.

School administrations are obsessed with such trifling things though. Here is a portion of the e-mail that I received. Apparently, they finally came up with a cutesy compromise:

" I am most pleased to share with you the good news of an important brand change for our College. Upon my recommendation, coupled with the recommendation of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, the Full BOT voted Friday to authorize the following brand for our institution: Carson-Newman will be featured as usual of late, such as it is on the Gate. Underneath the larger name, in smaller italics, these words will now appear---A Christian University.

As you know a healthy debate has run for several years regarding a possible name change from C-N College to C-N University. This move allows us to speak of C-N College following tradition if we so desire, OR use the word university as we please. Having the word university in our brand will help us considerably in recruiting international students. In other continents the word college refers more to vo-tech schools, or high schools. The word Christian clearly defines who we are and intend to remain. According to a survey conducted by Performa Company in 2008, the number one reason students choose C-N is our Christian identity and environment. Therefore, the new branding move should prove strategic in clearly identifying who we are and advancing Carson-Newman’s “market share.”

If you go to the campus website, you see this new "branding." (I hate Human Resources buzzwords like this.) The Carson-Newman logo hasn't really changed, but the addition of the subtitle allows the institution to have its cake and eat it too. They can keep the name 'college,' but sell itself as a University to those people that somehow think what a college/university/voodoo school calls itself is of any particular or lasting importance. 

All I can say is: at least they didn't drop the hyphen. They tried to push for that a few years back, again to no avail, as if a hyphen, or lack there of, is actually going to recruit more students. 

Ironically, my now mostly defunct seminary dropped its hyphen shortly after I graduated. In fact, Seabury dropped its entire second name, as it was properly referred to as Seabury-Western for almost a century. (Don't ask me why I attend hyphenated schools, I can't answer that either.) Again, the name change due to the HR administration spin department's not wanting to be bothered by a hyphen didn't save Seabury, which is now only a D.Min. summer camp for priests that is located in the basement of the Lutheran headquarters in the Chicago burbs. 

I hope it works for Carson-Newman. I can't imagine it is going to make that much of a different. I think labeling itself as "Christian" is going to negate any gains amongst foreign students, but I don't have a strong opinion either way. 

At least they didn't completely chuck tradition. 


TLF+ said...

Well it could be worse:

Tregonsee said...

My Alma mater, Sewanee, AKA The University of the South, is struggling with what to call itself as well. They had the university part back when it was little more than a college prep school, so that isn't the problem. It is the "South" part. It seems that it is considered too regional, and has according to some unfortunate historical associations. These days, you usually see "Sewanee: The University of the South" once, and all after is only Sewanee. One of these days they will get around to making it formal, but for now, the font size just keeps slowly shrinking.

The Archer of the Forest said...

That's funny. The fact that they call themselves the University of the South is one of the major reasons I looked at it when I was looking for colleges (and seminary). I get leery of institutions that try to divorce themselves from their heritage. The end result can only be yet another monolithically nondescript institution amongst many. I would recommend they go and ponder the phrase: E Pluribus Unum.