In June, a ‘literal political campaign’ to change UA’s name by January 2016

By Grant Morgan, Managing Editor

It started early this year as a post on a forum.

Since, the topic of a UA name-change — a rebranding, a new slogan, a marketing tagline, whatever one might call it now — has been persistently in the news.

But last Friday, The Devil Strip released a story about an administrative email that complicates many statements students, staff, faculty and the community might have heard regarding a name-change over the months, and seemingly belies a contradiction.  

The email, dated June 25, 2015, was sent to UA Vice President Larry Burns from President Scott Scarborough. In it, Scarborough writes: “I spoke to Jon Pavloff [UA Board of Trustees Chair] about his notion of a ‘campaign’ yesterday. He believes it should be a literal political campaign with the desired goal of people asking us to change the name of the university by next January. That’s his notion of what we need to plan, organize, and deliver.”

Some might faintly recall the UA administration’s comments on the matter from last semester, the summer, and this semester; yet there were so many that it is easy to become confused. Below, then, is a timeline of who said what and when, and an explanation of how this recently-revealed email fits — or doesn’t fit — in.


Feb. 28, 2015:

User “AirRage” creates a post on the forum titled “Thoughts on UA Rename,” within which the poster adds: “I wonder what Zips Nation thinks about the new President’s idea to re-name the University of Akron.” The post became popular, producing just over 13 pages of members’ comments, most of whom had no idea of what AirRage was talking about.


March 11, 2015:

Amid confusion stemming from the post, President Scarborough releases a prepared statement: “During the planning sessions with diverse university stakeholders, many ideas have been brainstormed, including the idea that the university change its name to reflect its unique strengths in polytechnical and professional fields, along with career-focused applied learning…This is only one of the many ideas that is being evaluated as part of ongoing strategic planning.”


May 1, 2015:

UA alum Jessica Kaisk begins a petition in response to the name-change news, calling for Scarborough to “uphold [UA’s] mission for education, not bad business.” The petition accumulated 11,085 supporters. Also, a group of concerned students meet in Olin Hall to work out the details of a forthcoming protest against the name-change.


May 4, 2015:

In response to the petition, the protest, and several related news articles from the Akron Beacon Journal and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Scarborough releases a signed letter on UA’s website titled “Rumors and Repositioning.” In it, he wrote of the profuse attention the University was receiving, adding that “there is also a great deal of misinformation fueling the rumors. Let me state clearly: We are not proposing a name change. [Italics Scarborough’s.] …Let’s put an end to rumors and speculation about a name change that serve only to misinform and divide.”


May 15, 2015:

UA is officially rebranded as “Ohio’s Polytechnic University” as part of Scarborough’s new marketing campaign to make the University more distinctive. The president unveiled the slogan during a speech to the City Club of Cleveland. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Scarborough said before the speech that if the rebranding campaign goes well, “he could see a discussion about renaming surface.”


June 25, 2015:

The aforementioned email is sent to Burns from Scarborough. Along with writing about the “literal political campaign” to change UA’s name by January, Scarborough asks Burns to have former UA administrator John LaGuardia work Akron’s “old guard,” — presumably prominent community members and stakeholders — because “the old guard is fussy at the moment — not enough love and attention from me about the polytechnic repositioning.”


July 23, 2015:

UA changes its athletic logo from a graphic with “A” and the mascot Zippy’s head next to it, to a “Z.” Administrators say the change was because “Z” is more trendy, but UA constituents see it as further evidence that UA’s name will be changed, a process which any signification of “A” or “Akron” on University materials would obstruct.


Aug. 31, 2015:

In a Plain Dealer story titled “University of Akron eventually may change its name, president says,” the survey results of marketing firms hired by UA to give recommendations for rebranding and renaming are released. Further in the article, Scarborough is quoted as saying: “a name change was discussed as part of the strategic plan, and there is a case to be made that in a perfect world you are not tied to the brand or name…There is an argument to consider [changing the name].”


Sept. 15, 2015:

In response to news about presentation slides Scarborough used over summer that depicted a UA name-change, Scarborough and Board Chair Pavloff release a joint statement to the community. “We would like to be as clear as possible,” the letter reads, “There are no plans to change the name of the University of Akron — now or in the future. Period.” They cited the confusion surrounding the topic as “speculation, rumors, and assumptions.”


Oct. 5, 2015:

In an Undergraduate Student Government Town Hall meeting, Scarborough tells the audience that “there were a minority of people several months ago that wanted to look at the idea of whether we should change the name of the university.”


Dec. 4, 2015:

In response to The Devil Strip’s story about the email sent June 25 — which seemingly contradicts what Scarborough said in early May — UA spokesman Wayne Hill gave this response: “There were various discussions over a period of time about a possible university name change…The so-called Phase II brand marketing campaign that began in early September is designed to establish the distinctive tag line of ‘Ohio’s Polytechnic University’…Dr. Scarborough and Board of Trustees Chair Pavloff have made it clear that there will be no university name change effort.”