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What two letters in the alphabet spell trouble for UT student groups?
Answer: "U" and "T". Like Nike's swoosh and McDonald's arches, the University has its own emblems, images and logos that it guards as closely as the treasures in the Ransom collection. Understandably, the University does not want fly-by-night companies printing up botched Bevo T-shirts, especially when the good image of the University is perverted to turn a quick buck. What is less understandable, however, is that the administration asks its students to abstain from using the acronym "UT", the image of the Tower, or even Bevo, in any manifestation that "may damage [the University's] hard-earned reputation."
Student organizations are not allowed to traffic in trademarks, even if it means simply juxtaposing "UT" with their group name or publishing an image of the Tower in a journal. There is little to no room for artistic or subversive manipulation of UT trademarks, and the consequences of doing so include suspension of the student group and prosecution of individuals involved. This prompts the perennial question of defining where "the University" diverges from its students.
In 1999, a group of students decided to form UT Students Against Sweatshops, or UTSAS. Campus and Community Involvement, the administrative office that enforces rules concerning student groups, informed UTSAS that their name was off-limits. Furthermore, their e-mail address, email@example.com, was in violation of trademark rules. Members of the group believe they were singled out for their political stance. More benign groups are routinely ignored for similar e-mail addresses. If rules are arbitrarily enforced, it's a sign that policymakers have ulterior motives in creating those rules.
The Board of Regents, the source of autocratic decisions at the University, imposed the current trademark policy in 1981. It grants plenty of room for profit-seeking companies to license trademarks and logos, giving them that "hard-earned reputation" in order to sell burnt-orange anything. A trip to the University Co-Op is an enlightening experience in trademarked crap: From orange Barbies to removable tattoos, the University's images are for sale. According to Cheryl Wood, senior student affairs administrator, there is a distinction made between students and for-profit entities. She reiterated that "student organizations [are] allowed to say they are a registered student organization at the University ... off-campus groups do not have an affiliation, so we wouldn't allow them to say that." In other words, outside groups may borrow the University's good name to turn a profit; they just can't say they're affiliated with the University. Students may not use the University's trademarks, but can say they're affiliated with the University. This arrangement is stupid and unfair. The administration is throwing students a pretty lean bone when they "allow" them to state they are a group on campus.
On the 6th floor of the Center for Business Administration, in an out-of-the-way hallway where few students ever venture, lies the obscure Office of Trademark Licensing. Here, Director Craig Westemeier decides who and what gets to use UT's trademarks. From the look of his office, quite a lot gets approved all products for sale. According to Mr. Westemeier, he looks for quality and marketability in products before approving them. But, when it comes to student groups, there is no money to be made and he must interpret the Regent's rules to deny them access to UT's trademarks. The administration identifies a successful trademark policy from "the fact that annual royalty income from more than 800 licensees now exceeds $600,000 dollars." $600,000 seems a pittance, since one can only imagine the millions of dollars that companies make off our school's image.
The University also pays a company to check the financial history and stability of groups wanting to use the University's trademarks. In a particularly Orwellian turn of logic, the administration links the purchasing of UT-related goods to a scholarship fund. This is their primary justification for licensing agreements the more you buy, the more you can go to school. This private-public relationship fits in nicely with an incorporated University. The tie between trademarks, privatization, corporatization and students finds its physical embodiment in the 1998 student film, University, Inc. In one poignant moment in the documentary, the camera pans the Tower while a giant "(c)" partially occludes it. The narrator states that this shot is in violation of trademark rules at the University. This may be the perfect emblem of a flawed trademark policy. More importantly, it tests the boundaries of what we can and can't do, using that most un-trademarked of symbols on the powers-that-be the middle finger.
-from a Daily Texan article by Forrest Wilder (9/6/2001)
Since the publication of this article in 2001, UT has tightened their copyright policy even more, making it virtually impossible for anyone other than Athletics to "borrow" the University's symbolic property.
Read more, courtesy of Habeab Kurdi, Daily Texan:
When members of Phi Delta Chi, a University of Texas-Austin student organization in the College of Pharmacy, went to have T-shirts printed to distribute to their members, they were turned away. Printers said their design had to be changed because of new University guidelines.
"We had 1,000 shirts and the design all ready to go. We went to every place we could think of, and they all said they couldn't print the shirts because the shirts had the Longhorn logo on them. We didn't think that was very fair," said James Cox, a pharmacy senior and Natural Sciences Council representative. After being turned down, the group did some research and came across the University's visual guidelines Web site. They were shocked by its content, which stated as late as last Thursday that the Longhorn logo should not be used to represent UT's academic programs or departments, and that the logo is the sole property of UT Athletics.
The Natural Sciences Council brought the issue to the Senate of College Councils meeting last Thursday. Senate members agreed with Phi Delta Chi, and passed a motion to support the right of any registered student organization to use the Longhorn logo.
Dave Holston, director of creative services and co-creator of the guidelines, discovered Friday that the site had caused an uproar that was beginning to spread throughout the student body. He immediately attempted to get word out that the site is only a draft and is not being enforced. The site -- which stood in its previous form for over three months -- had no indications that it was a draft. Holston changed the site's content and wording Friday to reduce the confusion.
"The guidelines [on the Web site] are not final and are not official at this point. They are a work in progress and are not ready for public use," Holston said.
"We need to make a distinction between what we do in the labs and with academics, and what we do in athletics," Holston said.
The site was not supposed to be widely viewed and existed to get feedback about the proposed guidelines from administrators, faculty, councils, and other universities with similar guidelines. The guidelines are meant to be suggestions for use so that the University is properly represented, Holston said.
The UT Individual Events Team, a component of the UT Speech and Debate Team, encountered a similar printing problem. After their design was turned down, Chad Crowson, a government and sociology senior and member of the events team, set up a meeting with Craig Westemeier, a co-creator of the guidelines and director of the UT Office of Trademark Licensing.
"Westemeier said the logo in particular was being phased out for academic use and endeavors, and this year was being used as a trial for the new guidelines," Crowson said.
The Individual Events Team and Phi Delta Chi chose alternative designs.
Westemeier has been unavailable for comment since Friday.
"We've been doing (the shirts) about three times a year, and it has never been a big deal before. It seems absurd an academic university wouldn't allow an academic organization to use the symbol that is most recognized. This is a mistake on the part of the University. When you think of UT, you think of the 'horns," Crowson said.
Alex Vasquez, owner of Aztec Printing on Guadalupe Street, said when a shirt design is brought into the shop, they contact Westemeier with information about who wants the shirt printed and what design they have planned for it. Then the design is either approved or denied.
The University has loosely enforced its laws in the past until it joined the Collegiate Licensing Company four years ago, Vasquez said. Since then, they have been getting stricter every year. Organizations being denied usage of the logo are simply finding other ways to get the designs they want.
"It's hurting our business when they can't use the Longhorn. Hundreds and hundreds of orders are lost because they are calling companies in Houston and Dallas that don't ask, don't care, and can't really be tracked down by UT," Vasquez said.
Tany Norwood, assistant dean of students, said that Holston, Westemeier and all interested parties -- including members of Student Government and the Senate of College Councils -- will have a meeting in the upcoming weeks to clear up any misconceptions.
(C) 2002 Daily Texan via U-WIRE
LOAD-DATE: September 18, 2002