If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Nothing says prestige quite like heavy-handed minimalism, apparently.

At least, that must have been the logic behind the committee of University of California execs who decided to make a few alterations to the UC system logo. Changes which essentially amounted to dropping the aesthetically pleasing “Let There Be Light” seal for an absolutely ludicrous blue and yellow graphic whose proponents compare to the Nike “swoosh.” Unfortunately for the advertising execs, the Nike swoosh doesn’t unsubtly contain the letters U or C, nor was it ever intended to exude the pomp and circumstance one expects from a Public Ivy.

That’s what many of the UC schools are supposed to be, after all: the public school equivalents of the Ivy League. For decades, the UC system has been one of the brightest of the state of California’s jewels, producing groundbreaking research in math and sciences and training California’s future over-achievers. The system, part of a “master plan” for California’s golden standard of public education, has endured for 144 years. And they’ve used the same logo for 144 years: the University Seal, an insignia to rival Harvard or Yale’s, with the inspiring words: “Let There Be Light.” A light that many optimists believed would not be snuffed out, even in our state’s current educational funding snafu.

Of course, that was the logic behind the execs who changed the logo, despite the vocal disapproval of California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. The plan was that the age-old seal would only be used on “official” documents, such as diplomas, whereas the new logo would be used on practically everything printed anywhere in the UC system. They claimed this would bring more coherence to the UC standard, and give the seal more weight. Right, because all the Ivy League Universities like Princeton and Brown are clamoring to get a buzzy new insignia in the name of “coherence.” And while we shouldn’t set the Ivy Leagues as our golden standard, they must be doing something right as the most respected academic institutes in the country. But no, it would seem the UC execs were convinced that their students and the people of California wanted the educational equivalent of McDonald’s.

It makes one wonder: who thought it was a good idea to waste funding on a logo change, anyway? That money could have been spent on decreasing class sizes, preventing the inevitable layoffs of hundreds of professors, or just fixing the myriad of other minor problems floating around various campuses. And if the advertising team was so dead-set on using the money to make our University more buzzy and “cool,” why not a viral video or a promotion of unity? Why, with all those options, would they choose one of the ugliest, most poorly designed logos ever made?

Students, faculty and alumni across the state rallied and caterwauled, calling the new insignia ridiculous. The execs behind the logo cited the approval of outside graphic designers, of the positive response to their jingo-laden promotional video, and of the fact that the logo had apparently been in use for the past year, but nobody had said boo.

Maybe that was because “for the past year” the logo had been put on almost nothing, and barely ever mentioned by UC officials. While the execs and people in charge argue that the lack of complain until mainstream publication lends credence to their argument, it really just goes to show how cloak-and-dagger the UC system really is. When something dramatic like a new logo gets put in place, you should, at the very least, let people know. In truth, you should probably consult them first. After all, this is a public university, so why was the public not consulted about a sudden shift in the face of the university?

Thankfully, in a wholly out-of-character display of public engagement, UC execs have pulled the logo in response to system-wide outcry. An online petition to stop the logo restructuring, created by a student here at UC Irvine, received over 50,000 signatures, and forced the university to stop alterations to the logo. It’s nice to know that in these trying economic times, the system still acknowledges the voice of students, especially when you think of the legacy of student activism many people still associate with the UCs, thanks to Berkeley.

This logo debacle is just a simple of example of positive change that can result when students rally together and voice their true opinions without fear. Let’s take this energy and channel it toward bigger issues such as budget cuts, overflowing class sizes or loss of jobs in the university. Our voices made a difference for this small, yet important, issue — just think of what we can achieve on a much larger scale.

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