A little-known fact about Occidental is that our name translates to “western” in Latin, in reference to the desire of our founders to establish a “Princeton of the West.” Although today there are no remaining ties between the two institutions, a reminder of that link can be found in our shared mascot and school colors. But the wish to emulate a better-known or more prestigious university should also be left in the past.
Over the past few months, Occidental’s Communications, Marketing & Community Relations department has begun planning a rebranding of the college’s perception by alumni and prospective students, according to Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Brett Schraeder. The change will encompass both visuals—such as typefaces and logos used by the college—and larger themes concerning the college’s image.
In relation to the latter goal, Schraeder said that his office aimed to put the college’s more illustrious alumni and accomplishments in the spotlight so that Occidental can begin to receive the widespread acclaim that it deserves.
Yet it would be easy to imagine that in pursuit of a goal to strengthen the college’s reputation—to compete with prestigious small liberal arts schools such as Amherst College, Williams College and the Claremont schools—we might again make the same mistake of attempting to present ourselves as an imitation of another school, instead of emphasizing the qualities that make Occidental unique.
For example, it could be tempting to play down the problems with sexual assault that have been strongly associated with the college in the past few years. But the survivors who courageously came forward with their stories so that other students would not have to face the same traumatic experiences and the faculty who put their careers on the line to support them are exactly what is so special about Occidental.
After all, the sexual assault epidemic is hardly specific to Occidental—but our ability to take such an honest and critical look at our culture and policy in addressing the problem is something special. Let us not disrespect the survivors’ work, as well as the efforts of other social activists on campus, by excluding them from our presentation of Occidental to the outside world.
To brand the college as an up-and-coming Ivy Leaguer with warm weather and beaches, only cheapens what Occidental really is: an institution made of students and faculty willing to take an unflinching look at ourselves in order to make a better and more equitable world.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly Editorial Board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.