In late August, UMW announced the results of a two-year rebranding effort, revealing a marketing campaign around the word “matters,” with stickers and signage like “Liberal Arts Matter” and “Community Matters” placed around campus. I was not the first or only alumnus to express immediate and utter disbelief that an “[Insert Term] Matters” marketing campaign would launch anywhere, much less a higher-ed institution, just a year after the “Black Lives Matter” movement gained such steam. And yet, here we are, with the University not only appropriating the term, but also the visual stylings of the Black Lives Matter logo. [The included image superimposes a UMW sticker on the BLM logo for comparison; they share similar fonts, weights, spacing, capitalization and even central-underline-styling.]
I’ll be honest: had I been polled two years ago when discussions around this campaign for UMW started, I might’ve been supportive of the idea, too. I knew far too little of the Black Lives Matter movement. I hadn’t learned how detrimental a phrase like “All Lives Matter” could be. But the critical thing is that I learned. Academia, and even corporate America, learned. In fact, almost every single corporation that jumped on the “[Insert Term] Matter” marketing bandwagon almost immediately jumped off in the face of swift backlash. It was not unique, it was not appropriate and it was detrimental to a movement that mattered far more than those brands.
We’ve all seen discussions in the news, and in Fredericksburg, around institutions grappling with further change—team names, statues, buildings and more that they viewed as key parts of their traditions and history. Those conversations were hard. A generic UMW marketing campaign is not, and never will be, a key part of its history. This conversation is not hard. Yet the administration insists on making it so by citing a “history” of two years of focus groups as justification to launch this campaign—utterly disregarding the real history of hundreds of years of black lives and struggles in America. If the University really wants to be so myopic that they must only look internally, maybe they should focus instead on their real “history”—the history of diversity problems that had long plagued UMW even 14 years ago when I was Editor-in-Chief of this very paper.
UMW: this marketing campaign is cheap, it’s manipulative and it dilutes the voice of a minority that UMW so consistently fails to represent. It’s a throw-away campaign idea that needs to actually be thrown away, right now. It makes me embarrassed and ashamed to be an alumnus of a school I’ve been so proud of.
I am calling for the UMW administration to immediately halt the use of this offensive campaign in all promotional materials and to issue a statement of acknowledgment that it will try to do better. Show your students that you are as capable of learning and growing as you expect them to be. If you care to join me, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to let the administration know.
Will Copps, ‘08
Former Editor-in-Chief of The Blue & Gray Press