December 2, 2003

C.U. Examines Image Committee's Findings

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Two months after the Committee on Improving Cornell’s Image released its 30-page report to the Student Assembly, members say that their suggestions on overhauling Cornell’s marketing techniques have already begun to spur change within the University.

“The response was fantastic,” said Peter Cohl ’04, leader of the Image Committee and author of the report. “We heard from administrative units throughout campus, from alumni all over the world and everyone from first years to grads. They were all excited that someone was finally taking action on campus.”

Cohl’s report was a highly critical examination of Cornell’s presentation in various media, from the appearance of its website to its visibility in national media outlets. It also examined issues such as class size and alumni contributions, factors which Cohl says are key to the University’s recent ratings decline.

“A.D. White wanted this [University] … to go beyond the status quo,” said Cohl. “To a large extent his vision has succeeded, but we need to constantly check how we have presented ourselves against his vision.”

Since the publication of the report, the Image Committee has met with University officials responsible for the Cornell web page and prospective student pamphlet, the “Big Red Book.”

Thomas Richardson, vice president of communication and media relations, has spoken extensively with Cohl and the Image Committee and is currently planning a “functional, navigational, and graphical overhaul” of Cornell’s web presence. “I expect to get the go-ahead for starting [the project] very soon,” Richardson said. “I’d like to affect the CUWeb site in time for prospective students making their decisions in May.”

“We’ve been looking at other schools’ websites for inspiration and discussing the ramifications of the growing influence of the internet,” said committee member Heather Grantham ’06. “Paper applications are going to become obsolete, and improving the website is a vitally important part of improving our image.”

The report also criticized Cornell’s current logo, characterizing the “big red box” as a lackluster and uninspiring symbol which is unfit for an Ivy League University. Since that time, President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 has called the future of the logo into question, stating that he will evaluate it and make a decision before the end of the academic year. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly recently passed a resolution urging the administration to retire the box logo, and Cohl plans to introduce a similar measure in the SA this week.

“I think that the image report has put the big red box issue on the forefront of the agenda,” said Cohl, who advocates a return to a version of Cornell’s traditional crest. “[This administration] is certainly far more open to this discussion than the previous administration.”

“I think for the first time the administration is willing to admit that they made a mistake on it,” said Ben Rockey-Harris ’04, a member of the Image Committee. “By the end of the year it’s going to be gone — that’s my guess.”

In addition to revamping its publicity, Cohl argued that a reduction in inflated class size is key to recapturing the top ten ranking which Cornell once held. While the problem of large classes requires a more complex and long-term solution than marketing efforts would, there are still steps that can be taken to improve the situation in the near future, according to Cohl.

“Cornell has been very aggressive in raising money fo The Image Committee will issue another report next spring, Cohl said, detailing the administration’s response to the initial report and offering continued recommendations for the future. Additionally, the committee plans on holding a series of student forums, in which participants will be able to express their suggestions for strengthening both Cornell’s public image and student life.

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco