University of Wyoming profs protest ‘Cowboys’ slogan
The University of Wyoming has come under fire for its new slogan, “The World Needs More Cowboys,” with opponents complaining that the word “cowboy” is sexist and non-inclusive.
The marketing campaign, set to launch in September, was designed to increase enrollment and attract new out-of-state students, but according to The Laramie Boomerang, the UW Committee on Women and People of Color wrote a letter to university officials demanding that they “shelve” the slogan in favor of a new one that “represents the diversity of the people and cultures” at UW.
"The criticism of the slogan as being sexist, racist, and offensive simply does not hold water in the context of the overall campaign."
“I am not the only person for whom the word ‘cowboy’ invokes a white, macho, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, U.S.-born person,” associate professor of kinesiology and health Christine Porter told the Boomerang.
“The history of cowboys, of course, is much more diverse than that racially, and presumably also for sexual orientation,” she conceded. “But the image—what the word ‘cowboy’ means off the top of almost everybody’s head in the U.S.—is the white, heterosexual male.”
The university, however, is undaunted by the criticism, emphasizing that the term is intended to evoke “the spirit of the cowboy that we all kind of share in.”
“The university is moving forward with the marketing campaign,” UW communications director Chad Baldwin told Campus Reform.
“The criticism of the slogan as being sexist, racist, and offensive simply does not hold water in the context of the overall campaign,” Baldwin added. “‘Cowboys’ is the university’s official mascot and nickname, and the upcoming campaign casts it in a way that we have demonstrated is effective in catching the attention of prospective students from outside Wyoming.”
UW utilizes the concept of the cowboy in several aspects of campus life. The UW mascot is a horse called “Cowboy Joe,” and its logo is the silhouette of a cowboy on a bucking horse. UW also refers to its student body as “cowboys” and has several programs that use the term such as “Cowboy Parents,” “Cowboy Connect” and “Cowboy Legacy.”
Porter, however, expressed concerns that the “Cowboy” emphasis is not inclusive enough.
“I care most about our university having a slogan that makes all people feel welcome here,” Porter told the Boomerang. “I also care about us not embarrassing ourselves as an institution across the nation. However proud this state is of our cowboy tradition, it just does not translate outside the Rocky Mountain West.”
UW reportedly paid roughly $500,000 to marketing firm Victors and Spoils to develop the slogan as part of a $1.4 million marketing project to attract out-of-state students.
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