Sunday, September 27, 2015

crUWSible Editorial - #RememberTheBird

As one of the editors of the student newspaper crUWSible (University of Western Sydney), it is my job to ensure that the paper remains as impartial and unbiased as possible. When submitting stories we must endeavour to provide both sides of an argument and give everyone an equal chance to have their say.
However, we cannot ourselves always be unbiased and sometimes we just boil over. When the university suddenly announced that they would be changing the name of the university and the signature 'blue bird' logo, hundreds of students were horrified, me amongst them. When I was offered the chance to make my opinions public, I jumped at the chance.
Here is my editorial for the soon-to-be-renamed student newspaper:

By Fenella Henderson-Zuel, crUWSible editor:

There’s no point denying it now. Finally, at 25 years of age, the University of Western Sydney has reached its rebellious phase. Like a teenager cutting their hair short, dying it blue and getting a tongue piercing, UWS is shedding its links with the past and preparing to emerge as a new entity.

Well, isn't that wizard.

Gone is the name and the catchy acronym that rolled so easily off the tongue and inspired the creators of crUWSible to name a magazine with a pun they could be proud of. This behavior was criminal enough. But what really got people hot and bothered was the destruction of the most recognizable symbol of UWS – the blue bird.

Journalists questioned the change, cartoonists mocked it and students were incensed.A call to arms was put out on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which for many students was the first time they’d heard about the proposal. A ‘#SaveTheBird’ petition begged the university to abandon the proposed rebranding and to ‘scrap the hideous proposed design for the University logo’, but the 5,000 signatures needed were not achieved.

I’ll tell you now that decisions just don’t get made that quickly. It is virtually impossible to draft a proposal, pitch it to a board, make changes, receive feedback and roll-out a change in a few weeks. Especially if that change involves actually manufacturing a hard copy of something. It just doesn't happen. So how did they do it so fast? The answer is simple. They didn't wait for student approval. When we did some digging, we found that the plans for the uniform change had been drafted three years earlier. The designs had been approved within six months and prototypes constructed within a year. By the time the second student survey was conducted, there were already warehouses full of new uniforms just waiting to be distributed to stores. We had been betrayed.

The name we may eventually forgive, but we’ll never forget the bird. We’ll never forgive the changes we have to make and we’ll never accept the Harvard-wannabe shield. Here at crUWSible we have our own selfish anger, as crUWSible’s days are also numbered. By August 31st, we will no longer be allowed to use ‘UWS’ in any official context and crWSUible just doesn't work as well. Or at all, actually. So what do we call ourselves now? Well, that’s what we’re asking you. We’re fresh out of ideas (plus we’re just being stubborn). What do you think we should be called? Let us know your suggestions for the new name for our beloved student newspaper.

For many, the proposal signified a change in values. Since its conception the University of Western Sydney has been more than just a place of learning – it has been a beacon of opportunity. Accessible to all, it promised better lives for those in surrounding communities who had made their way through hardship and was symbolic of a changing Western Sydney. That’s what The University of Western Sydney meant to people. But what does Western Sydney University mean? It’s a relatively small yet significant change, the dropping of a simple two letter word changing an entire image. Many have derided the similarities between the new red ‘shield’ logo and the Harvard University equivalent. As much as we may admire the ambition, one of the greatest strengths of UWS is its individuality. We don’t have decades of history like Sydney Uni or a larger-than-life reputation like UTS. We’re the quiet achiever, the slow but steady uni offering chances to anyone and everyone. We’re the people’s uni.

However, the greatest blow the changing logo dealt was the loss of trust felt by students towards administrators. It’s one thing to completely change the image of an establishment – it’s quite another to do it without consulting so many of those involved.

In my senior year of high school, the P&C Committee had a complete brain spasm and decided to change the uniform students had proudly worn for over 40 years. Again, that was bad enough. What was worse was that they made us students feel like we mattered before everything crashing down. We were asked to vote on the change, twice. Each time students rushed towards each other demanding to know whether anyone had been crazy enough to vote ‘Yes’ to the change. No-one ever did. And yet, just a few short weeks later, there we all were trying on our excessively itchy and embarrassingly see-through new uniforms.

Now, UWS students are feeling the same pain. Students returning to campus for the spring semester were suddenly confronted with a garbled rumour, which many disregarded. Then suddenly there was a leaked, fuzzy image of simple red shield and a lecturer confirmed the fear: the bird was down. Students were outraged at not being consulted or seemingly even considered. A hasty text message was sent by administrators to try to calm the storm by inviting students to ‘preview’ the brand changes at Werrington campus. But even when attempting to placate their audience the university failed – the message was only sent to those who had registered the mobile phone numbers previously, and not to all students via email. By the time everyone else found out, it was already too late.

Just like the uniforms at my high school, a new logo roll-out cannot be planned and executed with any sort of speed. This change was pitched, planned and the implementation set in motion before the first returning students set foot on campus.

We couldn't even attend the bird’s funeral.

So what do we do now? Well, we complain for a while. Years even, go right ahead. I know I’ll still be whining about this years from now, and I'm one of the lucky ones who only has to live with it for a few more months. For those who have a long way to go before they leave, I predict many garbled mix-ups and stubborn refusals before the new name can operate smoothly.

And never, ever, #ForgetTheBird.

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