7:26 PM EDT, May 3, 2013
Last month UConn adopted a tough new vulpine husky logo that, according to coach Geno Auriemma, is a "streamlined fighting dog" that says "Don't mess with me."
That's just great, but when it comes to defending a courageous, thoughtful student taking a nationwide pounding, a better logo choice would have been crickets.
Senior Carolyn Luby wrote an open letter to UConn President Susan Herbst. Luby questioned the university's new "visual identity program" that includes the new husky, developed by Nike, and a new "wordmark," which is basically "UCONN" in a font and color also developed in collaboration with Nike.
On the website Feminist Wire, Luby, while tipping her cap to Herbst as a ceiling-breaker, questioned the new campaign, in which the university's sports identity — rendered more menacing — comes first, followed by everything else.
She listed a few (but by no means all) incidents in which male UConn athletes engaged in bad behavior against women. What if, asked Luby, you're a UConn woman who didn't think the place needed to send more signals of aggression? What if you would have preferred an image makeover that was less exalting of testosterone and jock culture, not more?
Where's the branding that says we're going to be as avid about making women feel safe as were are about scaring our adversaries?
Fair questions. What happened next I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. A conservative site, The Daily Caller, pounced on Luby with the misleading headline "College husky dog logo promotes rape, says student."
That's not what she wrote, but it very quickly didn't matter. The Caller's interpretation went viral, and pretty soon Luby's name was all over the hard right digiverse. On just about every site there were "jokes" and snarks suggesting she should be raped or had been raped by a cartoon dog or needed some other forcible sexual attention. Rush Limbaugh tore her apart on the air.
The Daily Campus, UConn's student newspaper, reported that Luby had been yelled at on campus and barraged with threatening emails. The newspaper said Luby had spoken out as a rape survivor at a previous campus Take Back the Night Event.
The UConn response to the cyberbullying and media abuse of Luby was …
Herbst put out a boilerplate statement on the right of students to express themselves without being insulted or degraded. It didn't even mention Luby specifically.
A university spokesperson told me that "UConn's Title IX Coordinator, the UConn Police and the Women's Center have reached out to [Luby] to offer resources and advice."
"The resources I need are institutional support from her," Luby says of Herbst. Luby said the support UConn cited is all help she asked for on her own. "Nobody contacted me."
But in the midst of Luby's public battering, the silence of UConn officials has been deafening.
By contrast, Herbst reacted in real time during a radio show, hosted by my colleague John Dankosky, critiquing the new branding offensive. Herbst fired off an email — read live on the air — that among other things questioned the motives of two panelists, Peter Goode and Jan Cummings, who had years ago designed UConn's oak leaf logo (which is being retained as a "secondary graphic element").
I know Goode and Cummings. They're a couple of laid-back aesthetes whose idea of hardball is a Sunday afternoon game of pétanque with Jacques Pepin. Impugning their character made Herbst seem peevish and quick-tempered (which, I suppose, is right in line with the new visual identity program).
Would that she responded to the Sandra Flukeing of Luby with comparable alacrity and ferocity.
The visual identity rollout has been kind of a mess. The hydrophobic husky got leaked a week early, making UConn scramble to explain it to fans, many of whom said it looked like low-grade computer-generated clip art. Nike's involvement in both the dog logo and the wordmark looks Faustian.
The branding campaign dumps fuel onto lingering questions about UConn's real identity. Is it a place where the sports tail wags the college dog? Are championships, patents and corporate partnerships becoming more important than education? Would you send a bookish, non-sports-oriented freshman there next fall?
I don't know the answer. I think Luby was asking the same thing. And to all you losers on these politics and sports sites: keep your moronic half-thoughts to yourselves. We look after our own around here. Stand tall, Carolyn Luby. Grrrr!
Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5) and blogs at http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/. He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.
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