College should mind expenses from brand redesign project
By Ledger Staff
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Last month, the college published a letter from college president Terry Calaway addressed to all staff and faculty.
The letter was very foreboding, but reflected a welcome message that sacrifices must be made in order to account for the combined sluggishness of the economy and the recent expiration of federal stimulus funds.
Accordingly, Calaway announced that $6.2 million would be cut from the general fund budget for the college’s fiscal year 2011, affecting all aspects of the college except the faculty.
This makes sense; in the wake of the combined recent student exodus from more expensive institutions following the recession, the college must not cut faculty positions. Hiring more instructors in the coming months will probably prove necessary to provide for the largest undergraduate student body in the state of Kansas.
A smaller faculty means less class space and, by extension, less educational quality for all students. As Calaway explained in his letter, the removal of a faculty hiring freeze or layoffs from consideration will necessitate larger trimming of other expenses, including regular staff positions, but this is an unfortunate inevitability.
With this in mind, the college’s recent decision to start a process with the ultimate goal of “rebranding” the college raises a few important issues.
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to retain the Kansas City-based design firm Bernstein and Rein (B&R) at their monthly meeting on Jan. 27. As discussed during the meeting, B&R will charge $125,000 for an initial consultation.
All the actual design work, copyright, and other fees which will be necessary to adopt a successor for the famous sunflower logo and the myriad other department brands and promotional images will incur more expense.
As associate vice president of Marketing Communications Julie Haas explained during an interview for the story on page 11, the initial consultation fee B&R is charging will be paid for with leftover monies from the fiscal 2010 general fund.
This is a good decision, given the fact that a re-branding project as a mainly cosmetic change would be hard to pass the “mission critical only” test Calaway described to the board during last month’s meeting as the criteria for what gets cut in fiscal 2011 and what does not.
What is not clear is what comes next. The college has appointed a steering committee towards the end of eventually obtaining a new brand for the college, and has said that students from the Design department will be considered for seats on this committee in the future, but long term costs seem to be an unknown factor.
What does definitely seem to be the case is that allocating enough funds leftover from this year will not be possible to cover all or even most of what the college will eventually pay.
Haas justified B&R’s hiring on the grounds that simply giving the project to our extremely qualified students in the Design department won’t provide the kind of professional quality the college needs.
That’s fine, but if B&R or whatever firm or group the college ends up using to get an overall new brand names a price the college cannot reasonably afford in the current climate, a technically “unprofessional” but still extraordinarily cheaper internal project relying on our talented students is the only justified way to go, and will itself be an extraordinary educational opportunity.
Given that the college is finding itself in a situation of emergency fiscal slashing to keep the budget in the black, the college administration should be expected to keep expenses as low as possible, and to explicitly justify any and all new expenses as the rebranding project develops.
If new costs such as this cannot rationally be said to be “mission critical”, or if the long term price of the project remains unclear, they need to be set aside at least until revenues increase and there is more room for expenses. The college is placing itself on a fiscal diet, and with that in mind, it is counterproductive to continue to eat junk food.