I think Oberlin as an institution has been "fearless" since it was founded, in positive ways; it has always been a frontrunner in social justice, which is, for me, one of its most appealing features, and distinguishes it, at least historically, from its northeastern "peers" - like Amherst and Williams. Apparently the marketing team that came up with "fearless" was trying to change the image of Oberlin from what their research had found was a common view, i.e., Oberlin = weird. Problem is a lot of the students themselves don't feel "fearless" - they feel creative, explorative, curious - and some fear that "fearless" is code for "athletes" and that the college is trying to change its image to attract a more "boring" student body. At least that was what a lot of the student response was when the fearless theme was initiated. In fact, some of the response seemed to lack a sense of perspective, but maybe it was partly a function of it having been the product of marketing under the previous administration. The new communications czar has handled it brilliantly, tamping down the anxiety that the "fearless" theme generated. I don't see why "We are Oberlin" raises anyones hackles - especially because the stories that are attached are mostly delightful and offer quite an impressive portrait of the college for the past many decades.
I couldn't agree more. When I first heard (or rather read) the "We are Oberlin: Fearless" the last thing that would've come to mind is athletics. That's just goofy. Anybody who comes first to that conclusion is someone utterly untutored in Oberlin's history, and probably hates sports. And if objections came from actual students, that's even more mystifying and disappointing.
To me the "Fearless" tag evokes images of rescuing runaway slaves, educating women, protesting against injustice. I think whoever came up with "OBerlin: Fearless" was a marketing genius. Here's why: The "Fearless" tag was intended to change that part of Oberlin's image associated with "weird" but retain and remind people of that part of OBerlin's history of which it is most proud. The "Fearless" tag is what caused me to tell my daughter about the college. She'd never heard of Oberlin, and never would've considered the college, until I mentioned it to her and insisted we visit. The rest is history. It was very effective for me and, I'm sure, other people too.
My daughter loves the "Fearless" tag, and so do I. It gives Oberlin an identity. It made me wish I could go back and start college all over again and go to Oberlin, although I'm certain I"d never get in with the grades I had in high school.
What do the students who objected to "fearless" want instead? "Oberlin: Quirky?" Gee that's inspirational. That'll attract top students. <rolls eyes>. It goes to show you can recruit students with straight As in high school but that doesn't mean they have common sense. Wait till they get out into the real world and have to get a real job that might require them to come up with astute and EFFECTIVE marketing ideas to engage and inspire people who are not exactly like them.
What we want, Plainsman, is to go back to what we had before. I do not know if you are aware of this, but previous to "Fearless" our motto was "Think one person can change the world? So do we." Yes it is idealistic, but it is how many Oberlin students think. Lots of kids go to Oberlin learn skills to help them change the world, and go on to do so. There are thousands of stories of Oberlin students and alum doing things to change the world. The grand majority of us think one person can change the world, in some way. But are the majority of us fearless? Absolutely not. Oberlin kids are scared of so many things. But in all seriousness, with the example of Oberlin being the first co-ed school, I find that to show Oberlin as changing the world, not as much fearless.
The truth is that few Oberlin students have embraced the "fearless" campaign, especially those of us who entered during the "Think one person can change the world?" time. If you read Review articles/opinion pieces from the time of the change, you will see student opinions.
And Plainsman, thanks a lot of implying that Oberlin students may be book smart but have no common sense. Good way to make a good impression on current students.
The founders and early leaders at Oberlin wanted to change the world, but to do so, and to be abolitionists and missionaries, required that they be fearless too. Perhaps they were also somewhat quirky - motivated by religious belief, and filled with idealistic ideas like having the school operate through "learning and labor" -- including really doing labor, growing some crops, moving some rocks. Plainsman is saying, as I interpret it, that the word "fearless" inspired him to take a second look at Oberlin. That is no doubt as true for him and many others as it was true for some of the now rising seniors who were inspired by "think one person can change the world." But Oberlin's old materials were blander, portrayed it as another set of buildings on a greensward - didn't have punch or edge. And surely, Oberlin students want to change the world, and also want to have punch and edge. Oberlin is one of the most underrated schools in the country - that was part of the idea behind finding a new way to attract smart, creative, dedicated students. Being hypersensitive about it, wanting to say, no, Oberlin students are "fearful" - seems to miss the point. Of course there are things to be fearful about in this world...like swine flu...but Oberlin has a history of sending people out in the world to address those fears...like the new CDC director, an Oberlin grad.
abanana, you are correct. I should not have implied as such. I apologize. However, I remain mystified about their objections to "Fearless." I do think their objections reflect a lack of worldly experience. That's not a put down; it's a statement of fact. Most college students haven't lived for very long. I look at "Fearless" as a marketing coup. That takes real world experience. Having been in corporate America in a variety of industries for 25 years (and as a former Marketing major, a field not offered at Oberlin) I love it. Damn sure got my attention and differentiated Oberlin from the pile of "come change the world" college bulletins. With one simple word, Oberlin pushed all the right buttons, as far as I'm concerned. Brilliant. I may steal it for business.
Themes like "come and change the world" are a dime a dozen. That's the problem with it. There are a lot of colleges/universities that boast about changing the world. "Fearless" is unique. I thought Oblies liked being unique instead of "me too?" "Fearless also evokes images in my mind of going out into the world and doing bold things---like changing the world, but also discovering new miracle medicines, scaling the worl'ds highest peak, saving an entire village of poor Third World people from floods or starvation. Fearless means you are ready to do anything, conquer any challenge. Change the world, aside from being uttered every year by commencement speakers at half the colleges in America, does not inspire any bold visions. Not for me or my daughter, because everybody says it. It's almost cliche.
I also have "worldly experience", but, I'm with the students on this one. I heard the fearless campaign and thought it was marketing hype without substance. The old slogan about changing the world really was about Oberlin. We looked at a lot of different schools for my son, who is most interested in progressive politics, and believe me the ones that emphasize changing the world are few and far between.
Also, I don't think it is right to rely on "worldly experience" for two reasons. One, it seems like a way to say you can just ignore other people's opinions without addressing what they are saying. Two, for a marketing campaign the reactions of the people the campaign is aimed at seems really important, even more important than the reaction of others (such as those of us with more "wordly experience"). If I was selling a product I would be more interested in what my prospective customers had to say about my campaign than what their parents had to say.
Inquisitive Mom: Both parents AND students are customers. Parents are paying the tab. There is no way my kid could or would go to a college my wife are dead set against. It is simply not going to happen. Colleges know this, which is why parents get letters addressed directly to them from college presidents. My wife and I received SEVERAL.
But if you want to focus on the student, let me repeat: My D was blown away by the "Fearless" tag. She's the customer, right? She framed her entire "Why Oberlin?" essay around it. It might be the reason she was admitted.
"Fearless" impressed her so much she asked us for a visit. Remember, she'd never heard of Oberlin. How she interpreted the meaning of "Fearless" (fierce advocates for social justice) made Oberlin stand apart from other Top LACs that seemed so much alike. She can't be the only one in the crop of incoming freshmen who loved "Fearless."
Remember, the customers for marketing information are NOT the college's current students. They are the high school students the college wants to attract. If my daughter is an example, it worked. No marketing campaign including "change the world" will click with everyone. You've got to target your message for the type of person you want to attract. I can only assume Oberlin wanted to attract the type of high school students who would identify with or be inspired by "Fearless." It worked. What's not to like?
Well, your daughter is just one person. My son, another future Oberlin student, is another. My son agreed with me that the campaign was lame and contentless. So we have to step outside of our immediate experiences to see the reactions to the campaign. Unless Oberlin is trying to significantly change the types of students they are attracting, which we have no reason to believe they are, the current students are a good measure of how the campaign plays with prospective students. Also, I attended an information session where the Oberlin staff asked prospective students and parents what they thought of the fearless campaign and there was no support for the slogan. Most people were polite and sidestepped the question. I spoke up.
Well, here's a third view: we chose Oberlin regardless of the slogan, based on "fit"; in our instance, both parents and kid thought the "fearless" campaign was ok, kind of fun - we "got" the point and didn't think it meant "athletes" or "people who don't think before they act" but we also saw it as a slogan, which it was, and it showed that there was a perceived need to rebrand because of a perception that Oberlin is underrated. So the effort was clearly to appeal more broadly. Many students at Oberlin when it came out felt it was not sufficiently vetted with them; and they felt they were betrayed. Surely that was not the intent. The materials (factbook and the now defunct internet fearless portal) were a bit lurid for my taste, but apparently tested well enough in marketing studies for the effort to go forward. There's a lot of stationary that says "fearless" but I will bet that it is at best, in future, only one of several approaches. Certainly the new website is not "fearless" focussed; it is filled with stories, blogs, videos (there are videos for most of the conservatory faculty and many of the A & S faculty); there is a new administration and new communications going on. So this argument is really about something that is no longer a big issue and not worth wrangling over. One thing, though, Fearless does make for some good jokes and ironic t-shirts.
Fearlessly, Oberlin has risen to the occasion after the public transit bus from Oberlin to the airport was cancelled a few weeks ago. Here is the link, which shows a daily schedule for buses to the airport (where you can link up with transportation to Cleveland) at $15 per ride and special buses for the beginning and end of the semester and breaks. Oberlin-CLE Airport Shuttles - Oberlin College