Opportunity questioned

Selena McPherson/ The News
Selena McPherson/ The News

Selena McPherson/ The News

The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.

A new semester at Murray State undoubtedly promises a few things to new freshmen and seasoned returners alike: inconvenient construction projects, a week-long spell of rain and a new parking tag.

Oh, and a new catchphrase to purchase on T-shirts or spot on billboards on highway 68.

If you’re a returning student, you’ve had enough time to figure out how to Take Your Place in the Murray State Tradition – a slogan coined in 2012 – or explored Kentucky’s Public Ivy University, the oxymoronic motto of the 2000s. Perhaps the entire student body has, through some serious soul-searching and emotional class discussions, affirmed once and for all that We Are, in fact, Racers.

It’s time to move old-branded memorabilia aside, though – there’s a new slogan in town, and it makes about as much sense as a horse named Dunker: Opportunity Afforded, occasionally accompanied by a trendy #hashtag on overly-excited Facebook posts.

While previous Murray State slogans have had clear roots in the vague and sentimental, #OpportunityAfforded has some of us scratching our heads. Just what, exactly, is the meaning of this new attention-grabber, and why is it being unveiled now?

Though it’s been in the works since last September and is part of a new re-branding process that will take two years to complete, it’s probably no coincidence that the phrase – which draws attention to the low cost of Murray State – comes to us after university-wide budget cuts.

In the aftermath of Gov. Matt Bevin’s cuts, is it as easy to believe now as it used to be that Murray State is actually affordable? Washington Monthly may have ranked us “Best Bang for the Buck” in 2015, but that doesn’t mean students aren’t cracking open their piggy banks to cover newly-implemented costs.

Because of the new tuition and scholarship model, all students, including current upperclassmen, pay extra for taking more than 15 credit hours. In theory, if we follow the “15 to Finish” plan, this wouldn’t be a problem. But for students in intensive programs or for those who wish to add an additional major or minor, the new template hurts more than it helps.

Perhaps hopeful freshmen high on the thrill of college life should investigate the new motto as Americans investigate our favorite phrase, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” – with the crushing realization that the pursuit of something – the potential, the opportunity – does not guarantee the thing itself.  John Doe can afford a semester of opportunity without much strife, but four years of success is a little less feasible.

What’s particularly odd about the new branding campaign is that “Opportunity Afforded” in its past-tense form is aimed at highlighting the achievements of graduates. While showcasing retention rate and the success of recent grads is not a bad idea, it distracts from the fact that the new budget cuts affect current students, not 2016 graduates who missed the lowering limbo bar just before its death drop.

Given our current financial status, this is quite possibly the worst time to tout our status as cheap, even if we are more affordable in comparison to other state colleges. Is the new tag an attempt to distract new students who have yet to be disillusioned by costs from the new tuition model? Or is this simply an old-fashioned case of coincidence and bad timing?

It seems that, for the first time in the history of Murray State branding, our financial struggles have wriggled their way into our outward appearance. While a flashy sign reading “SALE” in a store window is alluring at first glance, it certainly loses its glamour when reduced to “EVERYTHING MUST GO.”

Let’s hope what we’re affording this year is truly successful and innovative marketing, rather than a frantic poor man’s cry for help masked in hashtags and gold paint.