Your Turn | Why I’m saying ‘No’ to the University of Akron’s rebranding strategy
op-ed by Noor Hindi
I didn’t mean to attend the University of Akron.
But standing in the middle of Buchtel Common had me feeling sentimental, so naturally, I started counting the number of family members before me that had attended and graduated from UA.
Eight family members had once stood in the exact same place I was standing that day, so what the hell, I might as well, right? UA felt like home to me and it was a proud moment.
The Hindi legacy was to live on at UA, and I was never to regret this decision, at least not until this last semester with the announcement of their rebranding strategy.
But see, for me, it’s not even about the rebranding itself. The additional “Ohio’s Polytechnic University” to be located at the end of “The University of Akron” isn’t truly what angers me – it only acted as a catalyst for the other problems I am having with UA. So allow me, for just a second, to speak about the other issues we have at UA and why this move is unproductive to the future success of our university.
In my two years at UA, I’ve seen students panic as they watch their programs cut. I’ve seen underpaid professors quit from years of frustration as they watched their class sizes grow and voices heard less and less. I’ve seen the arts marginalized, and I’ve seen us become rich in everything but academic quality. We offer our students flashy marketing techniques and state of the art athletic facilities, yet they are being held back because their advisors are doing the job of five people. There is a tension between students and faculty that are striving for a high quality education versus an administration that looks at us like walking dollar signs.
My problem with UA centers on money and faulty decision-making when it comes to where our money goes: academics versus marketing intended to attract more students because UA can’t keep enough due, I think, to the many internal problems we have.
About a month ago, UA introduced the new GenEd Core, which will allow students to take general education classes at $50 per credit hour. Although reducing costs for students seems like a grand idea, the administration failed to address that critical classes, such as English Composition 1 and 2, cannot be taught online and offered at such a cheap rate without sacrificing academic quality, and that the professors who will be nailed with the consequences of this decision were the last to hear about it.
And now this: “The University of Akron | Ohio’s Polytechnic University.” President Scott Scarborough has argued that the name polytechnic represents all fields studied at UA, but a quick Merriam-Webster search says the opposite: “Related to or devoted to instruction in many technical arts or applied sciences.” What upsets students like me—those of us who study in fields that aren’t in the technical arts—is that we feel like we are being further marginalized and undervalued. This strategy, officially announced at Scarborough’s May 15 City Club Speech in Cleveland, has also drawn criticism from those who argue that spending millions on rebranding doesn’t help remedy many other issues at UA.
Through this rebranding strategy, I fear UA is moving in a direction that undercuts the ultimate vision and responsibility the University of Akron has to the broader community and to its students, faculty and alumni. This is a responsibility that involves providing an educational experience that is both of quality and excellence. As one Facebook commenter stated, “Please, Dr. Scarborough, change the product, not the can.”