Monday, June 05, 2006

Embarrassed to be in Newfoundland

I've had my spats with Memorial University of Newfoundland over the years. When I was a student, and especially while a student journalist, I disagreed with policies of the university or the way they treated students. And that hasn't changed since I graduated. I disagreed with MUN on different things. For instance, I have never liked the way Alumni Affairs asks for money at Convocation. You have your degree for 30 seconds and there they are asking for a donation, normally of $100 or more. Even Student Aid gives you six months before they start hounding your for money.

Most recently I vigorously disagreed with their handling of the Dr. Chandra scandal. And then there's Wanda Young and other things as well...

And, of course, I disagree with any attempts to change the name of the place. I graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland, not Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. And certainly not from Memorial University.

So when MUN announced its new marketing plan, with Newfoundland conveniently absent, I was deeply annoyed. However, both Cove Blogger and Skylarkd wrote very nice pieces about it, so I was content to let it lie and just link to them.

But then I went and followed one of the links in Skylarkd's post (by the way, that is a seriously nice piece of writing. My compliments) which took me to the FAQ list that MUN has created about the new logo.

It's at that point, once I finished reading it, that I temporarily lost my mind.

Go ahead and read it. I'll wait.

Notice anything missing? How about the fact that the word "Newfoundland" does not appear anywhere in the FAQ (the logo on the top of the page doesn't count). Not even in the section where they explain the name change.

"This form also reflects our origins as a living war memorial and avoids the geographic reference which no longer matches that of the province." They can't even say Newfoundland or Newfoundland and Labrador. It's the province.

I swear to God, I think I'm the graduate of a university that's embarrassed it's in Newfoundland. "If only the university could be some place cool, like Quebec. But no, it's in Newfoundland (and Labrador). Oh well." Followed by a big, dramatic sigh.

This story from the CBC doesn't help much either, what with Victoria Collins saying (it's paraphrased in the story) that she expects some backlash, but a fresh look is needed.

You know, you don't need a genius in marketing, I'm sure, to create a "fresh" look that can put in "of Newfoundland" somewhere in the logo. Skylarkd manage to do it pretty easily.

I appreciate that saying the people running the university appear to be elitist snobs who have a bad tendency to look down their nose at others is much like saying the harbour smells a little funny, but My God. I don't care how much testing MUN did, there is no way the majority of students and alumni think this is a good idea. It almost feels like they're hoping prospective students won't notice where the university is located until they get off the plane in St. John's and discover that this is, in fact, not Florida. Or perhaps in the wake of the Dr. Chandra ethics scandal, they're hoping that people might get the two confused.

"Oh no, Dr. Chandra worked with Memorial University of Newfoundland. This is Memorial University. Different school altogether."

For the record, MUN has done a lot of good things over the years. But when they decide to do something idiotic, they don't do it by half measures, that's for sure. If you're disgusted by this, then please e-mail the university's marketing and communications group at, and the university president Axel Meisen at

If we're lucky, we can kill this before it gets much stupider...and more offensive.


dups said...

I'm not going to defend MUN... My concern is not that they dropped Newfoundland (it's either drop the island or add Labrador, leaving it was not an option), my concern is that the document stinks of marketing speak for commercial-dom which seems to be the beginning of a move to remove the uniqueness of Memorial, it's place in the culture and history of Newfoundland and Labrador and replace it with "generic university x".

Anyway, my two cents.

Oh and the new logo is ugly as hell.

Jason said...

I agree with Dups. (sigh) I have no problem with adding Labrador to the name of the university, its the name of the province. I could do a Rah Labrador rant now, but really not the time. I find it MUN's behavior odd since other organizations that have very strong ties to the province do not hid the image while they are away but often embrace it.

SkylarKD said...

Thanks for the compliment. :)

I have two comments:

Re: Labrador

Personally, If the university wanted to change the name of the university to 'Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador', I wouldn't have a problem with it. But right now, the university’s legal name remains 'Memorial University of Newfoundland', so until that is changed, there is no need to create a logo which “avoids the geographic reference which no longer matches that of the province.” (quote from the MUN Marketing & Communications FAQ). If it is such a big concern for the university, they should change the legal name, then change the logo.

Re: the CBC article

Ms. Collins, in the CBC article, says:
"We need to grow slightly, particularly in our graduate programs, and so to make an impression with these students, in a very competitive marketplace, we will want to have a very co-ordinated image — a strong and memorable image, and one that speaks to those students"

This is great marketing-speak, but what part of preserving the words "of Newfoundland" in the logo makes it unimpressionable, weak, un-memorable, and one that doesn't speak to students?

And while every marketing campaign wants to attract the target market, I find it interesting that the university seems to be focusing more on having the logo 'speak' to potential student recruits than to current students, alumni and Newfoundlanders.

Randy said...

By's get a life. It's just a friggin' logo, right. I think if you think that some marketing people doing some - I dunno what they call it: 'promotion' - is going to change the essence of MUN, you're a little misguided. 'But it's the principle'...whatever. We haven't even seen the stuff they are going to do. God dammit, people are so judgemental.

Deb said...

I read your blog a lot, and I like your rants. But Conspiracy Theory at MUN is out to lunch. If you don't like the logo or the of Newfoundland thing, just say so. I'm on the fenceon of Newfoundland and I like the logo (beats the hell out of that gross crest thing). But to say it's a cover-up or a conspiracy or whatever...that's a tad off the deep end, my friend. Sometimes people, companies, unversities - they just do stuff. No plot. No international intrigue.

towniebastard said...

I hate sometimes that I get a good idea, a good take on things and perhaps a way of getting the point across by using sarcasm and mocking only to have apparently missed the mark. It happens and when it does it frustrates the hell out of me.

There is something to be said for having a column in a newspaper, where you can take a few hours or a day from the time you finish until the time it's on its way to the press. And to have an editor look at it. Ah well...

Debbie, thanks for your kinds words, but I honestly don't believe there is a conspiracy happening at MUN. It's simply a group of administrators trying out a new advertising campaign to get more students. I approve of trying to get new students. With Newfoundland's population dropping, they need to do that.

I just disagree, strongly, with dropping "of Newfoundland" from the name of name of the university in the campaign. I'm not going to reiterate why. Skylarkd has done a good job hitting most of the points I would have.

Newfoundland should be a major selling point in the campaign. And yes, I'm sure there will be photos and other information that prospective students can look at that will show that it is, in fact, based in Newfoundland.

But it just feels so bloody lazy and disrespectful. And maybe it is an over-reaction. It's probably judgemental. And if I'm wrong and the campaign is amazing, then I will recant.

But you know what, I have the sneaking suspicion that's an apology that I won't have to make...

Andrew said...

Nope, I'm on board with the M.U.

I think that even the province should do away with the name all together - too many bad connotations and bad blood between the island and the mainland. We should be [symbol TBD]. The province formerly know as Newfoundland and Labrador (or TPFKANfld&Lab for short)

In fact, the more I think about it, I think that maybe we should not even have a "Memorial" University - far too depressing - all those wars, dead lads, destruction and all.

Yes, we need to rebrand it "Freedom University". I'm sure no one else has thought of that! Besides, think of the great logo.