Resistance to Marketing in Higher Ed: The Faculty Perspective

In a recent Chronicle article about the “crisis” of higher education, Lisa Schoenbach wrote that “the days are gone when scholars and teachers could afford to work in ignorance of or disdain for their universities’ decisions about budgets, outreach and lobbying. We need to understand the interrelations between the life of the mind and the lives of our institutions.” Yet, despite the inherent truth in Schoenbach’s statement, few faculty members are equipped to negotiate the issues that drive the rhetoric of crisis in higher ed: budget constraints, enrollment woes and the increasing lack of public trust in the institution itself. Faculty training in these areas is limited, or even nonexistent, and while it is true that academic identity is slowly changing to encompass new perspectives and roles, the existing system of academic labor and evaluation does little to actually support those changes. As a result, faculty are often blindsided by larger-scale changes in college and university policy, ones in which they should have been involved.

The recent announcement of a tagline change at the University of Wyoming, reported widely in the Chronicle and elsewhere, is a superb example of how this conflict often manifests itself. The U of Wyoming administration publicly announced that the University would adopt the line, “the world needs more cowboys” as its tagline, primarily due to its association with the University’s mascot. In a serious backlash against the insensitivity and exclusivity of the tagline, the faculty of the University asserted that they had never been consulted. This is undoubtedly true, because a tagline of this sort would never have made it past even an initial, faculty exploratory committee. Thus, it’s not surprising that faculty are often resistant to higher ed marketing. 

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Amy Mallory-Kani

Amy is a Writer at RHB.