What's it 'become' to at Memorial University?

Peter
Peter Jackson
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The fall semester is nigh, and Memorial University students are merrily gearing up for a productive year of becoming.

Becoming what, you ask?

Just becoming. Because that's what you do at MUN: you become.

Now, many students are certainly becoming in appearance. In fact, I married the most becoming one in my class.

The fall semester is nigh, and Memorial University students are merrily gearing up for a productive year of becoming.

Becoming what, you ask?

Just becoming. Because that's what you do at MUN: you become.

Now, many students are certainly becoming in appearance. In fact, I married the most becoming one in my class.

But the word "become," all by its lonely self, is a different matter. MUN is banking on this one-word invitation, plastered all over its marketing material, to somehow lure throngs of students thirsting for a better education.

Minimalist slogans and titles occasionally prove to be quite catchy, and even successful. Nonetheless, you can't help thinking that somewhere along the line, someone in authority is going to wake up and ask, "What were we thinking?"

One-word slogans can be as much a symptom of a lack of ideas as a stroke of genius. In a world in which language has already lapsed into mind-numbing simplicity, one-word slogans are on the cutting edge of dumb.

Marketing specialists insist our attentions are being pulled every which way by these slogans. We are, they say, like mice responding to stimuli in a Skinnerian laboratory.

I prefer to think my mind exerts some control over this relentless Orwellian messaging.

It's disturbing to witness an institution of higher learning buy into such a marketing gimmick. Even worse is the fact that such a vague, passive word made the cut.

Learn, strive, think, soar - all are words one might associate with a student's endeavours at college.

To "become" means nothing.

You can simply "become" a nurse or an engineer - the connotation being that you coasted through your courses and somehow wound up with a degree. The word does not connote any application of will. I can "become" irritated, angry or infuriated despite myself - as I clearly am in pondering this subject.

Universities have mottos, of course. But they are usually more proud and inspirational - not to mention in Latin. MUN's motto, Provehito in altum (Launch forth into the deep), is classic. It's inspiring. It conjures the ocean, and the exploratory nature of learning.

"Become" is, well, stupid.

Become what? What? What? What? It's an unfinished sentence; it's like a piece of gum unchewed. It grates, it annoys, but it does not inspire.

If a university wants to jump into the world of zippy slogans and smart marketing schemes, it should at least avoid these envelope-pushing fads. They do not mesh with the reputation of a prestigious learning institution.

At the very least, MUN should have gone with an extra word or two. Sometimes, believe it or not, it takes a phrase or even a sentence to explain what you're all about.

Take, for example, the slogan of the Chicago Police Department's homicide unit: "Our day starts when yours ends."

Now, that says it all.

I earned a couple of much-valued degrees at MUN, and I don't want to think this marketing campaign in any way reflects my accomplishments there.

"What did you do at MUN," a friend might ask.

"Well," I'd say, "I became."

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's editorial page editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Skinnerian laboratory, Chicago Police Department, The Telegram

Geographic location: Latin

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  • Go Petition
    March 06, 2011 - 13:23

    I realize that I am responding to an older posting. However, the term "become" was often used as a joke amongst some Memorial students. Some examples of how one could use this slogan: "I have become disillusioned with MUN" or "I've become tired of MUN's regulations and the manner in which they fail to serve the students." or "We've become nothing more than puppets on a string doing whatever the University decides is best for us".