04 April 2006

A "Power" Trip

As long as we're on the topic of alma maters, I've got to chime in about a new slogan which Arkansas State University not only adopted as its mantrus supremus, but also COPYRIGHTED as well.

The slogan is "Powering Minds" -- oops, better add the "®" to that.

It's a nice, ummm, powerful positioning statement (as we're fond of saying in the radio biz). But I'm a tad bit bugged about it.

However, before I go into that, let me say my unease is -- heh heh -- powerfully tempered by the icon that's been adopted to serve as ASU's new "visual icon." Well, "adopted" wouldn't be the proper phrase; what ASU did was tap a truly esoteric piece of engraved stone on a long-dormant entrance to one of the oldest buildings on campus, Wilson Hall. Part of Wilson used to house the library until 1963, when a new building opened (yes, with bland yellowish-tan brick). This engraved image of a scholar, a dignified carving which always reminded me of Auguste Rodin's famous statue The Thinker, was a forgotten portal amidst a growing campus.

Seeing that image as the dominant motif of the university's website gave me goosebumps. It also - yeah, yeah - made me a little misty.

It reminds me of another Arkansas State "lost icon", something I always liked to call The Arch To Nowhere. It was an entryway to the first building on the campus, the predecessor to Wilson Hall. On it is engraved ASU's original name "A&M COLLEGE."

Funny thing, the building ... and the STREET (!) which passed in front of it ... no longer exist. The roadway, the original alignment of Aggie Road, was torn up and replaced with green, green grass some time in the '50s. [Hmph, Arkansas State was destroying roads even then, too!] But the arch remains, and is a focal point in that "quad" area of the campus. A very dignified reminder of ASU's history. Just like the scholar.

But back to the slogan. Powering Minds®. One question: WHY? It sounds like something I'd sooner expect from Troy Not-State University, an institution which places greater importance on appearance than anything substantially academic. I'll be the first to admit that T(NS)U's campus as a whole is more picturesque than my beloved A-State's. I mean, Troy has hills. Jonesboro has .... tiny inclines. We're talking flat Delta country where I'm from, people.

Troy's buildings have some beautiful facades -- Bibb Graves Hall and its palladium sit proudly atop this knoll, for eons a beacon to the immediate vicinity. Arkansas State, meanwhile, is powering structures (heh, sorry - they wouldn't sue ALUMNI ... would they??) with bland yellowish-tan brick.

It just goes to show you: Appearance ain't everything. What's important is not what the classrooms look like on the outside -- it's what takes place INSIDE those classrooms.

I spent the years 1990 through 2000 in the employ of Troy Not-State. I sat in amazement as the administration was constantly cooking up slogans to promote the university as if it were a soft drink. I learned one, um, er, powerful lesson from my years in Troy:

Sloganeering = Shortcomings.

Why does Arkansas State have to stoop to such petty sloganeering? Why?

Can you hear me up there, Jumping Joe? I'm talking to YOU.

It's drizzling outside. No, wait. Joe heard me.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Mind Proudly Powered by Indian Joe" Gleck

PS -- I still love you.

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