“W^TW”: Brands Matter

I have met very few people who unabashedly like this new brand Eastern adopted last spring. Perhaps it’s just the people I surround myself with, but to me, the brand comes off as pretentious and almost as an attempt to distract from EU’s own internal problems. The most immediate problem I take with “Wake ^ The World” (barring the cheesy attempt at being syntactically relevant) is its completely unqualified association with the white savior complex. The first webpage launched for this campaign told the story of the EU women’s soccer team that went to Zambia in May 2014. The page featured a picture of one of the soccer players with a young Zambian child, describing it as “a perfect example of what it means to Wake Up The World.”

Did it not occur to anyone making this brand that this was exactly the same motivation behind colonialism? Or perhaps that was precisely the point: that those other people of a different culture need saving through Christian evangelism. Of course, “sharing one’s faith” is not synonymous with “evangelizing,” so it cannot (and should not) be said that the women’s soccer team was only there to subjugate the culture and exploit them into “Christian repentance.” Instead, I see this situation much like I tend to read the Bible—certainly something happened, but there is undeniably authorial freedom to make the events into what they are trying to communicate. In this case, we have an unseen author (of the brand) and we can only infer things from what they say and how they say it.

I’m sure many are wondering how this was even chosen. On April 17, 2014, the marketing staff sent out an email inviting all EU students to an elaborate branding event. The event was held six days later, on April 25, a Wednesday. Club leaders may likely know that Wednesdays are notoriously the busiest days to hold events, thus students would be less likely to attend. The event mimicked the same sort of neoliberalism that would later be embodied in the brand, “Wake ^ The World.” There was plenty of FREE food and beverages (a good draw for college students being pushed further into debt by their university) and a contest for a 55” flat screen TV.

At this event, the brand was revealed. In other words, students and faculty had little to zero agency in choosing how our university would be represented. What would have been done if the feedback reflected that the community did not want a new “brand”? What if “faith, reason, and justice” was one that the community found to be illuminating and motivating?

Personally, I’m more inclined to take a university seriously with a motto like “faith, reason, and justice” than one with “Wake ^ The World.” And I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in this. While “faith, reason, and justice” has not been discontinued (which would have been really awkward, given the new wall art in the back of the Dining Commons), it is disconcerting to me that it is being used less and seems to be taken over by “Wake ^ The World.” In a way, “Wake ^ The World” is directly at odds with “Faith, Reason, and Justice,” especially when Eastern keeps hitting its own snooze button.

Sources: www.eastern.edu/admissions/wtw

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