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UConn’s New Logo Embodies Exploitation

As a freshman at Syracuse University, I failed to understand the depth of depravity lurking in Division I athletics. I knew college sports meant big money, but I underestimated the entitlement and rape culture that went along with it.

Syracuse University never had the great soccer teams of its Big East rivals UConn or St. Johns. But its players nonetheless felt they owned the world because they were big time athletes. This became evident to me one night in February 1991.

A woman I was dating went to a frat party, and when she returned to our dorm, she sought solace in my arms. She wept as we hugged, and I knew something was wrong.

After some prying and arguing, I learned she had been cornered in a closet by a soccer player and he raped her. She did not want to report this to the police. She did not want to seek medical help.

I told her that if she was not going to do anything, I could not help her either. I did not report it. I didn’t know the guy. She wouldn’t cooperate. I regretted it then, and though I can try to forgive my callousness, it makes me feel small now. My own shame  compels me to speak in concert with UConn undergrad Carolyn Luby.

Luby recently wrote a letter to UConn president Susan Herbst decrying UConn’s new aggressive, angry Husky dog cartoon logo as a symbol of rape culture. Luby’s words:

“What terrifies me about the admiration of such traits is that I know what it feels like to have a real life Husky look straight through you and to feel powerless, and to wonder if even the administration cannot ‘mess with them.’ And I know I am not alone.”

UConn ignored Luby. UConn and the entire state of Connecticut refuses to mess with the athletic department, despite the stench of ethical decay wafting from Gampel Pavilion.

Even the former Governor of Connecticut herself, M. Jodi Rell, did not mess with Jim Calhoun when he was an aggressive, mean “big dog” to this very columnist.

I once hoped UConn President Susan Herbst would be more than a corporate caretaker of the state’s flagship university. I hoped Herbst would fight for students, and use her pulpit to argue for free tuition, if not that, then reducing student loan burdens.

Instead, Herbst has shown herself unfit to protect students, and she has positioned herself atop an institution bent on mining its student body for profit and reaping the benefits of capitalist excess.

Last week, the mailman gave me a glossy, four-color magazine from UConn. I am a 2010 graduate of its law school. UConn likely sent this magazine to every graduate of every school, at no small expense, explaining the new logo and look and shortened name (from the University of Connecticut to “UConn”).

The UConn communications department, which boasts 31 employees working in six different sub-departments, needed Nike’s help to not just redesign the logo, but to explain why the redesign benefits everyone.

Surely, these 31 communications personnel provide essential services to the educational mission of the University and keep tuition costs low and insure student loan rates below prime, right? Of course.

Kenneth Best, who more than a decade ago covered UConn basketball for a radio station, now is the Special Projects Editor for the University News and Information Department. If memory serves me, Best was always a PR guy in another field, and the radio gig was a hobby.

And the destruction of journalism has seen good reporters like Stephanie Reitz, once an AP staffer who I worked with at the Waterbury Republican back in the mid-1990s, and Colin Poitras, formerly with the Hartford Courant, flock to the public relations game.

Anyways, Best scribed “Husky Evolution”, a three-page story explaining the new logo. How he didn’t puke when writing the piece is beyond me, but hey, everybody’s gotta eat and pay rent, right?

Best’s propaganda traced the decades-long history of UConn’s cartoon mascot to today’s new mean dog logo.  Emulating legit journalism, Best quoted two sources: UConn’s Kyle Muncy and Nike’s Clint Shaner, the graphic designer who helped create the logo.

When UConn examined its sports programs, Muncy said “we saw that only five of the 24 were using the Husky dog logo on their current uniform…We had become an athletic department and a university that had so many different marks, it was difficult to determine what the brand was.”

Now remember, participating in college sports is about becoming a more well-rounded person, someone whose competition in intercollegiate athletics aids in self-discovery and team building and helps equip them for the challenges of citizenship and life.

So why do we care about brand imaging? It can’t be for Kyle Muncy’s paycheck. Or for the NBA and the NFL’s need for trained bodies from UConn’s minor league teams. Or because Nike needs to sell uniforms.

Shaner is the senior graphic designer for Nike’s Graphic Identity Group, and he can be found online discussing the redesign of the Arizona State University Sun Devils uniforms and logos.

Lisa Love was the vice president for athletics at Arizona, and her quote from an April 12, 2011 press release heralding the new ASU logo and specially created font (by Nike!) sounds like the vomit from Muncy and Best now:

“When I arrived at ASU six years ago I noticed we were an athletics program which featured different shades of maroon and gold, different logos, multiple fonts and uniforms…There was a lack of real consistency with regard to our brand.”

Nike drives the collegiate athletic ship.  Nothing like creating a need for new product and selling it. I wonder what Carolyn Luby would think of ASU’s new logo: a very sharp lined, aggressive, militaristic trident. It is not the smiley little Sun Devil of days of yore.

A trident is an ancient phallic symbol, wielded by the mythological King Neptune. But ASU would tell you this isn’t about emphasizing male domination. In 2009, ASU paid $850,000 to a woman raped by a Sun Devil football player.

But UConn and Nike will tell you it’s wrong to think of rape culture, putting athletes on a pedestal or selling merchandise. They want you to forget Nate Miles and his violence against women. UConn wants to you to believe the consistent brand image allows college athletes to wear uniforms reflecting who they truly are, so they can be educated to become better citizens.

UConn’s new logo is about “athleticism, determination, and aggressiveness in competition,” said Muncy, adding that student-athletes contributed to the design. “They didn’t feel the existing mark reflected who they are and didn’t adequately embody the characteristics of a Husky,” he said. I say horse manure.

Explain to me again why I didn’t receive a four-color glossy magazine from Susan Herbst explaining why UConn was organizing all its students on all its campuses to support Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal that student loans get the same interest rates that banks do, less than one percent? Because Herbst’s a fraud?

Explain to me again why there isn’t a whole glossy magazine from UConn decrying the Obama administration’s $51 billion profit from student loans this year? Because UConn’s corporate class depends on this disgusting practice for its existence?

Capitalism demands exploitation. Capitalism demands meat to grind into profit. Capitalism demands complicity from winners and defeat from losers.

Anoint as victors the Muncys, the Nikes, the Herbsts, the Calhouns. Silence as vanquished the Lubys scorned, the violated restraining orders, the students in debt, the women sewing in sweatshops, the raped weeping and thirsting for justice.

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