U Cal.'s New Logo: A Sign of the Times

The school system's new seal is the perfect symbol of what the University of California has become.

So now comes the news that the University of California system has replaced its traditional seal, dating back to 1868, and featuring an open book, a star, and the words “Let there be light,” with a wonderfully horrible new logo that looks like a parody of every misguidedly minimalistic corporate symbol to come down the pike in the last few decades. Remember (are you old enough?) the three-year period in the late 1970s during which NBC, with great fanfare, introduced a new corporate logo – a letter “N” consisting, quite simply, in the words of Wikipedia, “of two trapezoids, one red, one blue”? As with the new UC logo, the idea was to have something “bold, bright and contemporary.” Alas, NBC spent a million bucks on this fresh new design only to discover that the chain of PBS affiliates in Nebraska had been using an almost identical logo for years – an embarrassment that necessitated a nearly million-dollar payout to keep the the Cornhuskers out of court. And in the end NBC went back to the peacock anyway, apparently having been persuaded by the tepid viewer response that the red-and-blue “N” was a no-go.

Of course, this kind of radical simplification of logos has been the rule in the corporate world for a long time. And not just of logos but of corporate names themselves, with the initials of companies’ names becoming the actual official names, meaning that they no longer actually stand for anything. (For example, CBS is no longer shorthand for Columbia Broadcasting System; it’s just CBS.) I don’t mean to make a huge point out of this, but it does seem to me that all this eagerness to shed the traces of tradition, to reject any idea of historical continuity, and to replace images suggestive of actual human activity with dehumanized images that are suggestive of absolutely nothing is uncomfortably symptomatic of the cultural maladies that have led Western society and Western economies off the rails in recent years. This urgently felt need to squeeze any trace of the authentically human out of the imagery representing our major institutions brings to mind a variety of unpleasant historical precedents, among them the socialist-realist iconography that substituted recognizable pictures of actual people with idealized poster-ready images of the New Man.

To be sure, as the Oakland Tribune reports, the original University of California seal “will still be in circulation, appearing on president’s letters and official university documents. But marketing materials and websites will feature a radically simple and more contemporary symbol: a little ‘C’ nesting inside a shield-shaped ‘U.‘” Check it out. Did you happen to notice that the “U” and “C” are in the exact same shades of blue and yellow, respectively, that make up the Swedish flag? That may be coincidence: I don’t know of any special connection between the Kingdom of Sweden and the University of California, although, come to think of it, both of them are especially notable, even among Western countries and American universities respectively, for the degree to which they’ve happily sold out liberal values in the name of culturally suicidal multiculturalism.

Still, instead of borrowing the colors of the Swedish flag, you’d think it might’ve been more appropriate for the designers of the logo to use the green and red of the Mexican standard. Or else replace the definitely retrograde image of an open book with a picture of – oh, I don’t know – a frisbee? Che Guevara? Dianne Klein of the Office of the President of the University of California said the following by way of explaining the new logo: “They wanted something that would reflect the innovation, the character of California – just more modern, user-friendly.” Of course, if “they” really wanted something that would reflect the way things are going in California in 2012, how about – well, hmm, how do you come up with a simple, catchy image that represents productive members of society being taxed to death, corporations fleeing the state, and an endless stream of non-taxpaying, undocumented aliens flooding in across the border? How about a picture of that eagle from the Mexican coat of arms strangling to death not a snake but the grizzly bear of the California state flag? Too subtle?

Klein insisted that the purpose of the new seal was “not to take away from the gravitas of the original seal.” But shedding gravitas is exactly the point of all these sorts of changes. Where at the University of California today, after all, will you find anything remotely suggestive of gravitas?  It could be argued that for nearly the last half-century, California’s public higher-education system – which consists not only of the ten University of California campuses but also of twenty-three California State University campuses and 112 community colleges – has been ground zero for the effort to crush into a fine powder any trace of gravitas in American higher education. It was at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) that riots, bombings, and other aggressive and violent acts by Black Panthers and their allies led to the establishment in 1969 of the country’s first Black Studies program, a phenomenon of which civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin quite properly asked: “Is Black Studies an educational program or a forum for ideological indoctrination?” (Correct answer: B.) It was at San Fernando Valley State College (now the California State University at Northridge) that similar gravitas-free hijinks created what is now the world’s largest Chicano Studies department, devoted then as now to the cultivation among students of an overwhelming sense of alienation from, hostility to, victimization by, and inability to make any kind of headway whatsoever in mainstream American society.

Then there’s the University of California at Irvine, which in recent years has earned the dubious distinction of being almost certainly the nation’s most poisonously anti-Semitic institution of higher education. Then, needless to say, there’s the University of California’s oldest campus, and the one where all this mischief-making can plausibly be said to have started – namely Berkeley, which has been a notorious hotbed of far-left brainwashing ever since the 1964 “Free Speech Movement,” a development that, as David Horowitz has rightly noted, “was ultimately not…about free speech” but “about the right of the political left to agitate for its agendas within the confines of the campus itself,” thereby inserting “ideological politics into the heart of the university community.”

So bring on the new logo. With its vapidity, slickness, and utter lack of character, it’s the perfect symbol for what a University of California education has, in all too many cases, become in these benighted times.

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