A Shiny New Label

UCSD’s “socially dead” reputation may well be over. The university communications and public affairs office wants to rebrand UCSD as a research facility by the sea. To do so, it plans on changing all references of UCSD to UC San Diego and heavily play up the school’s location in a series of advertisements to draw in potential students. It’s not a half-bad idea. After all, UCSD (sorry, UC San Diego) is scornfully looked upon as a low-quality UCLA or Cal knock-off and prime research facility — and that’s it. We are an academic school, first and foremost, a moniker that has begun to seriously harm our reputation. It’s high time to make a change, to draw students in with promises of rockin’ beach parties, babes sunning on Black’s Beach and gnarly waves. That way, UCSD won’t be seen as the school that people go to when their other prospects are grim.

The office decided to take on these big changes, partly as a result of the natural ebb of attention after last year’s UCSD’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. Without sufficient funds to conduct a new market research study, the office drew upon a 2007 market research study that surveyed 3,600 community members, a third of whom were prospective students.

According to the study, UCSD is often confused with neighboring schools like SDSU and USD, hence the proposed emphasis on “UC San Diego.” The name change is accompanied by a new, minimalist logo sans Geisel Library, and the theme, “Live it, Learn it.” The theme, intended to highlight UCSD’s prowess as both an academic institution and a community service school, is a rather refreshing change from the stodgy old “Local Impact, National Influence, Global Reach.” One such ad features the tagline “From the whiteboard to the surfboard” and a chipper student carrying a calculus-scrawled surfboard. As cheesy as it might seem, the ad makes a good point. Our students boast lives far outside of the classroom.

These elements, according to the office, are merely suggestions for different university departments. These are changes that they should make — the more departments that take part, the more effective the campaign will be. But at this point, changes are unlikely to be made.

More uncertain though, is whether the redesign would impact the decisions of prospective students. The communications office has clearly put in a great deal of effort in its quest to change UCSD’s reputation. But this push to rebrand seems like something better suited as a university-wide initiative, like the 50th anniversary celebration. That way students, prospective or otherwise, would be actively able to see the changes and take notice.

The office especially hit home with one aspect of UCSD that has been continually cast aside in favor of academic boasting — our location.

Of course, UCSD is a top-notch school academically — and with good reason. It’s currently ranked eighth best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, 33rd in the world by Times Higher Education and boasts eight Nobel Laureates, eight MacArthur Fellows and three National Medal of Science recipients. We are pretty evenly matched, academically, against UC powerhouses like UCLA and Cal. And though academics alone may not be enough to strike the fancy of prospective students — Division I athletics and a football team couldn’t hurt, for starters — maybe this will change the tepid campus culture as well.

We have the cliffs, we have Black’s and we have our proximity to downtown San Diego and Los Angeles. LA may have its smog and sass and Berkeley may have Telegraph — but we have the surf and everything that goes with it. It’s a good thing they’re playing it up — we have a lot more to be proud of than a library designed like a prison watchtower, even if students spend more time in the said library than the beaches.  

The communication office’s rebranding initiative has good intentions, but after a while, it is disheartening to see UCSD’s reputation as not-UCLA. Perhaps this will be the change that transforms UCSD, but given the evidence of general unconcern and apathy — probably not.