Two weeks before school started, the Wesleyan Athletics Department came out with a redesign of the athletics mark that attracted quite some attention online, from the funny;
to the weird;
and to the envelope-pushers…
This development continues a controversy ignited last year by the spontaneous rebranding adopted by the administration, which brought a redesign of the website and a completely new visual style guide that included, most infamously, a new logo that later got scrapped (highly recommend checking those links out before continuing if you weren’t here last year).
The press release about the new athletics mark states:
With the refresh, the primary elements of the Cardinal were retained but modernized, bringing to life a modern and bold bird. More feathering was added to give the appearance of a cardinal in flight while reflecting the determined, powerful, and fierce spirit of the Wesleyan community. The eye of the Cardinal is wider to evoke our attitude of remaining focused on the goals we set out to achieve, both on and off the field.
These are the words of Deb Katz, the Director of Marketing who also had a part in last year’s logo debacle. One can only guess what Wesleyan students thought about this description…
Although there is something to be said about the fact that the new mark separates us from other schools that use the Cardinal as its mascot, it begs the same questions– if not even more so– as did our rebranding last year. While regular Wesleyan students can go their entire careers without ever wearing any clothing that bears Wesleyan imagery, student athletes have no choice but to don on their bodies whatever is decided by some disconnected authority. So why were they not consulted?
Ultimately, it is the polished, dynamic Adobe Spark website created just for the announcement (and that contains the exact same information as the press release) of the new mark that symbolizes everything wrong with this latest installment in the Wesleyan rebranding saga.
Some might say this time, as they did the previous, that people are being silly for getting so up in arms about a logo. This myopic view simply ignores the reality of the severe misallocation of resources (or severe failure in being transparent with the reasoning behind such perceived misallocations) that the Wesleyan administration has been pursuing for the last few years.
The Argus piece covering the new mark reports that:
Katz declined to comment on the University’s budget for the new Cardinal but clarified that the redesign was an internal affair.
“The athletics’ refresh was all done in-house between the coaches and our internal design team,” she said.
Although the redesign might have been done with the Athletics Department’s own resources – as opposed to using University at-large resources or hiring an outside firm (*cough* Lipman Hearne *cough*) – this does not absolve them of misplaced priorities either. There still exists neglected needs and inequities within Cardinal Athletics.
For example, the Women’s Ice Hockey team still has to move gear regularly from one locker room to the other, as their designated locker room is frequently rented out for children’s and traveling teams; while the Men’s team has their own permanent locker room.*
For all our talk about LGBTQ+ inclusivity in all facets of school life, there still are no locker rooms for agender or non-binary student athletes.
And we haven’t even begun to think about all the costs that will come with revamping all infrastructure that carries the old mark.
This is not an argument against college marketing as a whole – which would be naïve – but rather, a questioning of why we are spending our money in such a way that addresses “problems” no one is complaining about, while neglecting real issues impacting the literal livelihood of people we interact with every day.
Instead of the many more serious problems the school faces, many of which disproportionately affect underprivileged groups, the administration has chosen to invest massive amounts of money (to the tune of possible millions) into these programs without consulting the student body. The “Core Messaging Project” as a whole is only one great illustration of initiatives which the administration has failed, time and time again, to demonstrate demand or interest for.
Especially for a student body that prides itself for progressivism and activism, we must ask ourselves whether these actions can be doubly scrutinised and critiqued beyond the humour we can make out of it.
*Heard from a friend on the Women’s Ice Hockey team.