IF Charles Sturt University hoped to generate publicity with its surprise announcement that it was considering a name change, its marketing gurus are entitled to unfurl the “Mission accomplished” banner any time they choose.
But if the university wasn’t hoping to generate headlines of the any-publicity-is-good-publicity variety, well, there are a few questions to answer – and soon.
The university, one of Bathurst’s biggest employers, has been weathering a backlash since it said last week that it was interested in a new name as part of a “refresh”.
Ex-students have spoken out, a petition has gathered thousands of signatures, angry letters have been written to this newspaper and a banner was unfurled on the gates at Machattie Park on Wednesday afternoon calling for the CSU name to remain.
The change, so far, seems to have little support – and a lot of that must come down to the inability to articulate a justification.
The announcement about the name change, when it came last Friday, was heavy on buzzwords, but light on reasoning.
A spokeswoman said CSU was working “on a refresh for our brand, to ensure we speak clearly and consistently to our students, staff and members of the public”.
“While awareness of CSU in our communities is strong,” the spokeswoman said, “and we are appreciative of the goodwill our communities hold toward the university, it’s important to evolve our brand to meet the needs of the market and ensure we can continue sustainable growth in our student numbers.”
They are the sort of sentences that draw solemn nods and satisfied smiles inside a meeting room, but which prove flimsy and insubstantial when exposed to fresh air.
Refreshing and evolving a brand? Speaking clearly to students? Meeting the needs of the market?
As more than one person has pointed out, it’s not clear how changing a name that has stood for decades will achieve any of those abstract aims.
CSU’s Jenny Roberts said this week that the university expected and even wanted a debate when it went public with this idea, but it’s hard to imagine the uni was hoping this debate would get so far out of control, so quickly.
In fact, calling it a debate seems misleading.
There seems only the one side so far: those who like the CSU “brand” just the way it is. The uni ignores them at its peril.