University of Wyoming professors aren't happy with the school's new marketing slogan, "The World Needs More Cowboys" because they believe it promotes "white heterosexual" masculinity and makes nonwhite students feel unwelcome at the university.
The school paid a Boulder, Colorado-based marketing firm about $500,000 to conceive and execute the campaign, which is part of a $1.4 million investment on the school's part to advertise and promote the university on local and national levels.
What are the details?
On Sunday, the Laramie Boomerang reported that the school's new marketing campaign — slated to kick off for the new school year in September — was lambasted by the UW Committee on Women and People of Color, who have written a letter urging university officials to reconsider the slogan and use one that is more inclusive.
The UW Committee on Women and People of Color suggest a slogan that "represents the diversity of the people and cultures" at the school.
Christine Porter, associate professor of kinesiology and health, told the Boomerang that she isn't the only one with this line of thinking.
“I am not the only person for whom the word ‘cowboy’ invokes a white, macho, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, U.S.-born person,” Porter said.
“The history of cowboys, of course, is much more diverse than that racially, and presumably also for sexual orientation," she said. "But the image — what the word ‘cowboy’ means off the top of almost everybody’s head in the U.S. — is the white, heterosexual male.”
Porter also told the Boomerang that she's concerned about others' perception of the institution as a result of the slogan and marketing campaign.
“I care most about our university having a slogan that makes all people feel welcome here,” Porter explained. “I also care about us not embarrassing ourselves as an institution across the nation. However proud this state is of our cowboy tradition, it just does not translate outside the Rocky Mountain West.”
Has the school responded to the criticism?
According to Campus Reform, however, the university doesn't appear to be backing away from its cowboy campaign anytime soon.
Chad Baldwin, the school's communications director, told the outlet that "the university is moving forward with the marketing campaign," which aims to evoke "the spirit of the cowboy that we all kind of share in."
Baldwin added, “The criticism of the slogan as being sexist, racist, and offensive simply does not hold water in the context of the overall campaign. ‘Cowboys’ is the university’s official mascot and nickname, and the upcoming campaign casts it in a way that we have demonstrated is effective in catching the attention of prospective students from outside Wyoming.”
Baldwin told the Boomerang that the "cowboy" term isn't even intended to be "gender-specific."
“We’re casting it so that it’s not gender-specific,” Baldwin explained. “It’s not at all exclusionary. It’s the spirit of the cowboy that we all kind of share in. So, we’re basically throwing away the old stereotypes and updating what it means to be a cowboy and what it looks like. A cowboy is not what you are, but who you are.”
The Boomerang reported a poll conducted by a marketing research firm that targeted young people applying to universities.
According to the outlet, the University of Wyoming's slogan — "The World Needs More Cowboys" — as well as its campaign video, and asked the sampling of young people whether they'd be more or less likely to apply to the college as a result of the marketing campaign.
The outlet reported that 25 percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably consider applying to the University of Wyoming prior to seeing the video, and 48 percent of respondents said that they would definitely or probably consider applying to the school after viewing the video.
The Laramie Boomerang also reported that among Hispanics, Native Americans, and African-Americans, 48 percent of those surveyed said that they would definitely or probably consider applying to the University of Wyoming even before watching the video.
That number grew to 53 percent after those sample groups watched the video.
You can read more about the poll's findings here.