Inciting Change, from a Computer

Courtesy of Reaz Rahman

It’s been weeks since Reaz Rahman created the petition against the redesigned University of California logo, garnered 6,648 likes on the Facebook group entitled “Stop the UC Logo Change,” 54,383 supporters of his online petition via change.org, and innumerable emails from friends, supporters, dissidents and even the UC marketing communications director, Jason Simon.

But all the while, he was still a fourth-year biomedical engineering student here at UC Irvine, hitting the books during finals week while managing a huge petition against a logo change that had been developed and implemented on web pages, marketing and communications materials across the UC system, seemingly right under the noses of students who had been accustomed to the classic, University of California medallion that features an open book with a banner running across with “Let There Be Light.”

While sitting at his desk in Camino and perusing Facebook, he came across a link that one of his friends had posted regarding the new logo, clicked on it, saw the new logo and was appalled by the redesign. For Rahman, the redesign didn’t embody an institution of higher education, of distinction, of history.

“When I saw it, at first I didn’t believe it. I clicked on the article that I saw in my newsfeed, started reading it and commented on it and said, ‘Somebody needs to do something about this,’” Rahman remembers. The logo seemed insensitive towards a generation that was familiar with buffering symbols like the ones we see on our iPhones and Netflix accounts.

“I wondered if anyone even knew about this. I thought, maybe a couple people here and there had seen it on their newsfeed.”

From there, after realizing that he could be the one who could do something about it, decided to turn to change.org. Change.org, the world’s largest petition platform with 20 million users, according to their website, was the ideal place for Rahman to start a petition. With just a couple of clicks, Rahman created his eloquently worded petition that called attention to the redesigned logo that was already in use.

When Rahman climbed into bed, he thought that the petition would gain about 1,000 signatures at most.

Within two hours, the petition had gained over 2,000 signatures.

As procrastinating students scrolled down their Facebook newsfeeds, they saw their friends post links to Rahman’s change.org petition and to the Facebook group that he had created. With just a simple click, students could send the link to their friends at other UC campuses, who would send it to their friends at other UC’s.

“I didn’t expect it to be a huge thing,” recalls Rahman. Yet, every hour, Rahman found himself updating the Facebook group with the number of signatures that the petition had gained and by the twelfth hour of the petition, there were 5,000 signatures and counting.

More and more students, alumni, professors and members of the community began to sign the petition and join the Facebook group. Within three days, there were more than 40,000 signatures.

Those who commented on the Facebook group wrote items ranging from snarky comments like, “Does anyone else see a toilet flushing in the new logo?” to long winded and thought out comments like, “The new UC logo is a disgrace. The traditional seal has been in use for 144 years. It’s timeless symbols represent the purpose of the university … Future generations will look back on this change as what it is: a trendy, shallow marketing ploy.”

Even though finals week was in full swing and swiftly approaching, Rahman’s phone was inundated with texts from friends who were asking if it was really him who had created the petition; emails from change.org which updated him on the number of people who had signed the petition; Facebook notifications that would reset once they got to 99; and even press inquiries from the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and even NBC. He declined interviews from NBC and the Chronicle due to finals, but eventually contacted the Times and various university publications that had requested interviews.

Eventually, Jason Simon, the marketing communications director at the UC Office of the President contacted Rahman and explained to him that the logo had been widely used for nearly a year, the Onward California mobile campaign had spread its message to thousands of people across the University of California system, with stops to the ten UC campuses.

Although Rahman understood that the designers were attempting to become more modern and identifiable with the era, Rahman believed that the monogram was lacking the prestige and history that the old logo had embodied.

On December 11, the campaign took a turn when Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom publically supported the petition that Rahman created and wrote a letter addressed to President Mark Yudof and stated, “Clearly the new logo for the University, even in its limited use, has backfired.”

Seven days after the petition had been established and over 54,000 signatures later, the logo redesign was suspended on December 14.

After a week full of long nights awake with a head jammed into a book and glued to a computer screen, Rahman’s fall quarter and triumphant petition drew to a close. Does Rahman forsee the creation of any future petitions? “I’ve had my fill with creating petitions. It was an interesting experience but there are so many other petitions that need attention out there,” Rahman reflected.

With a successful petition that attracted attention from students across the UC system, the University of California higher-ups and various press outlets, it’s fair to say that Rahman had a successful fall quarter. A 4.0 to wrap it up didn’t hurt either.