After white nationalist Richard Spencer did his thing at Texas A&M awhile back, the university changed its policies so that now all approved speakers need sponsorship by a campus organization.

An official campus spokesperson explains:

As one of the stewards for protecting and enhancing the brand, this is particularly troubling to me as the influx of these outside groups may connote to your viewers [she’s talking to CNN] an environment of acceptance by our campus when none are actually our students or faculty.

This is an official spokesperson. This is a person who gets a salary to talk like this.

Scathing Online Schoolmarm says: Let’s scathe.

These words usher us into the depths of the deepest forest. To follow this sentence is to follow Hansel and Gretel as they stray farther and farther from any known world, into an enigmatic and malign witchery. It is to search hopelessly, desperately, for a referent, a subject, a predicate… to scratch your head and say steward for? Isn’t it steward of? When she uses the word “brand,” does she mean university? Does she mean reputation?

When you get to “this” (‘this is particularly troubling’), it is to ask What is this? To what does it refer?

And influx? I wasn’t worried about massive numbers of neonazis pouring into Texas A&M until I got to influx.

And why the constipated connote when she means express or signal?

By the time we’re into the completely nutty windup (‘an environment of acceptance by our campus when none are…’) we may be too addled to realize that the spokesperson’s final statement is overwhelmingly likely to be untrue. Surely some Texas A&M students – maybe even some faculty – have white nationalist sentiments. Did Spencer speak to an empty room? Were no members of his audience affiliated with the … brand?

Speak simply and directly, darlings.

UD thanks John.

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14 Responses to “White Noise at Texas A&M”

  1. Bernard Carroll Says:

    When the slick marketing term branding rolls so easily off the tongue of your university official then your university is in trouble.

  2. Greg Says:

    At least Hansel and Gretel had crumbs. Palinesque, word salad after 5 minutes in a Cuisinart on liquefy.

  3. John Says:

    I knew you’d rise to the occasion. Well done.

  4. janet gool Says:

    The most confusing word to me in this whole muddle is “brand”. I can’t believe someone is paid for speaking such gibberish.

  5. JackOH Says:

    janet gool: I’m used to business gibberish that appropriates a word or phrase with specific meaning, then mashes the heck out of it. (“Pushing the envelope” drives me up a wall.)

    I, too, would like to know how “brand” is being used these days.

  6. Greg Says:

    These days, when someone says pushing the envelope, I ask them who’s licking the stamp?

    I believe it was originally an aeronautics design metaphor. But, even if you liked the general fit, “stretching” would have fit better. Always try to picture parts of a metaphor when you’re in a coining mood.

  7. Greg Says:

    Just noticed: the blog time stamp clock is not yet on daylight savings time.

  8. JackOH Says:

    Greg: my understanding is the “envelope” is aircraft ceiling plotted against velocity. To me it makes sense to apply it to situations where you have two performance variables known by your customers/constituents to be important to or definitive of a product, service, or proposal. The way I hear it, it just means “doing better”, delivered up in the pseudo-knowing way that many businessmen like to affect. Drives me bonkers.

    I think there is at least one good business use of the metaphor. Plotting price against quality, e. g.

  9. Greg Says:

    But, and I really am open to your answer, doesn’t “stretching” work better, as a figure,than pushing. To my ear, in stretching, the envelope itself enlarges. In the pushing metaphor, the whole envelope moves — god knows to where –but would stay the same size. A stretching metaphor would just mean that the limits have been lessened, because the space enlarges. On thinking again, “enlarging the envelope” may be a better locution. Now my crazy unresting mind is thinking about post cards! Once set loose, a metaphor is a juggernaut.

  10. JackOH Says:

    Greg, I think you’re right. “Pushing”, I guess, may be thought of as having a sort of shoulder-to-the-wheel, aggressive quality to recommend it. Maybe. If you have a “pushed envelope”, do you end up with an airplane that can only take off at 10,000 feet?

    Yeah, “enlarged” or “stretched” may be clearer. I don’t know the history of the expression, or whether alternate formulations were used at one time. I’m inclined to stick with the customary, idiomatic expression, but I think most everyone would get your meaning if you used “enlarged” or other synonym.

    But I don’t get “brand” as applied to a university. Brand Oberlin? Brand NYU? What the buck is that supposed to mean? How about going big, as in Brand Russia? Brand Twentieth Century? Brand Western Civilization? Maybe someone could explain this. Maybe I’m a little OCD, but something sounds a bit awkward.

  11. Greg Says:

    More insidious than awkward. Education, just another product for sale with all the methods of sale including advertising as we have come to know it. My guess, Jack, is that that’s your intuition too.

  12. JackOH Says:

    Yeah, I’ll go with “insidious” too, at least as a placeholder for my unease with “brand” as applied to universities.

    You’re teaching Newton’s physics in 1910. Along come relativity and quantum stuff to blow your brains out. Whaddya do, claim some “brand” infringement? Do lawyers need to get involved? Hot iron tats for profs?

    Maybe I’m getting too cranky in early old age, maybe I’ve had too much coffee already, but we’ve already got enough unexamined word goop out there. Ban the “brand” (with the exceptions of cattle and trademarked products). Thanks.

  13. Janet Gool Says:

    “As one of the people responsible for the university, it troubles me that your viewers might think that the people attending the lecture were connected to the university, when actually they were outsiders.”
    Plain English, as I was taught in tenth grade.

  14. dcat Says:

    I’m reminded of the great Krusty the Clown’s assertion in a meeting with television execs: “Paradigm? Pro-active? Aren’t these just words that dumb people use to make themselves seem smart?”

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