UW

A planned marketing campaign for the University of Wyoming is taking heat from some inside the university who have called it sexist, racist and counterproductive to the goal of recruiting more out-of-state students.

“The world needs more cowboys,” the campaign claims, evoking images of stereotypical western icons in the minds of some faculty and misrepresenting UW’s research and educational goals, associate professor Christine Porter said.

“I care most about our university having a slogan that makes all people feel welcome here,” she said. “That’s what I care most about. I also care about us not embarrassing ourselves as an institution across the nation. However proud this state is of our cowboy tradition, it just does not translate outside the Rocky Mountain West.”

UW Director of Communications Chad Baldwin defended the slogan, saying one of the campaign’s central goals was redefining the word “cowboy” to represent all faculty, staff, students and others associated with the university.

“We’re casting it so that it’s not gender-specific,” Baldwin said. “It’s not at all exclusionary. It’s the spirit of the cowboy that we all kind of share in. So, we’re basically throwing away the old stereotypes and updating what it means to be a cowboy and what it looks like. A cowboy is not what you are, but who you are.”

Boulder, Colorado-based marketing firm Victors & Spoils was paid around $500,000 to develop the campaign. It is part of a more than $1.4 million investment to advertise the university both within and outside Wyoming.

In addition to individuals raising objections, the UW Committee on Women and People of Color wrote a letter to Baldwin and UW President Laurie Nichols, asking them to “shelve that slogan and find another one that represents the diversity of people and cultures that we have, and want to have, as UW.”

Attached to the letter was an explanation of the history of the word “cowboy” and its racial and gendered connotations, written by professor of communications Tracey Patton, who published a book in 2012 titled “Gender, Whiteness and Power in Rodeo.”

Cowboys and connotations

The objections are two-fold. She said the slogan both fails to be inclusive and fails to accurately represent UW to those outside Wyoming.

“For me, the clearest reason it’s unacceptable is the word ‘boy,’ excluding anyone who identifies as female,” she said. “In 2018 — and really for the past 20 years — it’s not been acceptable to use the generic male to pretend that includes female.”

Porter added UW already recognizes this in its athletic programs, where men’s teams are referred to as Cowboys and women’s as Cowgirls.

Porter shared a survey on the UW faculty listserv, asking respondents to picture a cowboy in their mind and share what the word evoked for them.

While promotional materials for the marketing campaign list historical figures as varied as Galileo Galilei, Mary Wollstonecraft, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malala Yousafzai as “all cowboys,” nearly 75 percent of survey respondents named instead the Marlboro Man.

“I am not the only person for whom the word ‘cowboy’ invokes a white, macho, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, U.S.-born person,” Porter said. “The history of cowboys, of course, is much more diverse than that racially, and presumably also for sexual orientation. But the image — what the word ‘cowboy’ means off the top of almost everybody’s head in the U.S. — is the white, heterosexual male.”

Faculty Senate Chair Donal O’Toole said the list of non-cowboy Cowboys was “frankly absurd.”

“I could kind of hear Martin Luther King chuckling if he read something like that,” O’Toole said. “They listed a whole bunch of people who they said represented cowboys, but I wonder if that’s going to be a hard sell.”

Baldwin said the revolutionary figures listed as cowboys might not be seen as such today, but a central goal of the “world needs more cowboys” campaign was to reimagine this term already so tied to the university.

“The term ‘cowboy’ in this campaign refers to people of any gender, any background, any ethnicity and what we have in common, which is the spirit of adventure and being a trailblazer, being resilient,” Baldwin said.

Porter said she liked the idea of expanding the term “cowboy” to include people of other races or orientations, but added the “boy” would put it forever out of reach for women and girls.

“I truly appreciate … the idea that who a cowboy is needs to be rebranded to be more accurate to the diversity of people who are cowboys, or who have been,” Porter said. “However, you don’t do that with a marketing slogan. You don’t try to simultaneously change how everybody thinks of that word, and use it to say those are the only people who belong here at the University of Wyoming.”

The other issue of concern for Porter was the current perception of the word “cowboy” outside of Wyoming, where UW intends to recruit students.

Respondents to Porter’s survey suggested alternatives to the “cowboys” slogan. While some were sarcastic — “The world needs more ballerinas” — others were sincere. Porter said she was particularly fond of a suggestion to make UW’s slogan: “The world needs more trailblazers.”

“Aside from my inclusivity concerns, I just think that’s a better slogan, period,” she said. “I think it’s more appropriate for a university. It’s more specific to what we do and more directional and it doesn’t require reinventing what a word means.”

O’Toole said he shared Porter’s concern about the baggage that so often comes with the term “cowboy” thanks to media depictions.

“It means someone who just kind of takes risks and can sometimes be a knucklehead,” he said. “Now, that’s not how cowboys are seen here, but the university really needs to balance the positive image that cowboys have here with the possibly negative image that cowboys may have elsewhere in the country, especially if they’re interested in bringing in a higher proportion of out-of-state students.”

O’Toole added the “cowboy” image was a confusing mascot for the academic arm of the university, which is actively working to become a premier STEM institution.

“One of the concerns I have is we get some blowback from people in the state saying University of Wyoming faculty doesn’t understand the cowboy heritage and so on,” O’Toole said. “And that’s not really the point. The point is how will people outside our immediate area see that slogan.”

UW Institutional Communications, however, is not operating blindly, Baldwin said.

“Perhaps if you see that slogan in a vacuum and don’t see that context, maybe some people object to it,” he said. “But the campaign itself hinges on this redefinition of a cowboy — and in fact, we’ve now done some market research that shows that, in fact, is effective and is appealing to broad groups of people.”

Redefining Cowboys

A professional marketing research firm conducted an evaluation among a national sample of young people likely to apply to universities. The research firm showed these young people UW’s “the world needs more cowboys” campaign video, asking both before and after if they would consider UW and if they were likely to apply.

While 25 percent of respondents said they would definitely or probably consider UW before the video, 48 percent said they would do so after. While 25 percent said before the video they would definitely or probably apply to UW, 41 percent said they would apply after the video.

Among African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, the 48 percent before the video who said they would definitely or probably consider UW grew to 53 percent after. The 41 percent who said they would definitely or probably apply to UW grew to 48 percent after the video.

Before the video, 36 percent of respondents — and 41 percent of ethnic minority respondents — agreed UW is a “university rich in diversity. That number rose to 58 percent for both groupings after being shown the video.

Additionally, 68 percent of respondents — and 56 percent of ethnic minority respondents — said the video changed their perception of cowboys, according to a memo detailing the market research.

“I think it’s unfortunate there are some people on campus for whom the term ‘cowboys’ will never probably suffice, but that’s where we’re coming from,” Baldwin said. “The idea here is to make this absolutely inclusive. The critics say that it’s exclusive, but the campaign rests on the idea of making it something that represents everyone associated with UW.”

The new slogan is set to launch Sept. 14 at Laramie’s annual Downtown Mash-Up event.

(54) comments

clipper

If you're triggered by the word "Cowboy" you don't belong here.

Raquo

To clipper: Amen.

packerpoke

ditto that and Cowboy up and deal with it.

waitasec

They can whine about a new logo and try to rebrand as much as they want. The bottom line is the same. Wyoming is classified as an R2 research institution, meaning they will never be able to compete for the larger grants as an R1 (CSU, K-State, etc.). You can change the facing, but the infrastructure still remains weak.

packerpoke

Makes sense.

uhmnotreally

Yeah, that's not really true. The R classification has nothing to do with what kind of grants a university–or rather, the researchers at a university–can or cannot obtain. There are tons of R2 universities out there that do top notch research, UWyo included. That being said, the current administration and the board of trustees make it harder and harder for faculty to be successful by, just to name two examples, stealing money from research accounts and stealing vehicles from faculty and staff (and then force them to rent them back for $$$). The real outrage is that the university spent half a million dollars on a slogan that is already used by another university (OK State), but takes money from its employees wherever it can, degrading the quality of both research and education at UWyo.

JenOH

There are many cowboy-style slogans that would be more inclusive.

clipper

If so, then why didn't you include them in your post.

ChrisBoswell

Some of us have no objection to a strong connection between the university and the state. That UW seeks to broaden the perception of "cowboy" to be one beyond the traditional may serve the best long term interests of both the university and the state.

Brett Glass

Sorry, Chris, but the University - while it likes to think of itself as a 900 pound gorilla and the unaccountable 4th branch of Wyoming government - does not have the power to change the definitions of words nor the world's perception of "cowboys." The slogan will harm us. I can't help but wonder: Was this a bad joke - or intentional sabotage - foisted upon us by UW's competitor, UC Boulder, to the south? Or a reflection of their existing perception of us? Or both?

freeconsultant

In response to Chris Boswell's inane and yet condescending comment: There are so many ways in which the university is connected to the state that are more significant than the figure on the license plate or the name of the sports teams. Get real. University faculty are on the road all the time, contributing to the culture and economic vitality of this state. The faculty has to function in a broader context, too, one which the university also covets -- the international realm. In the English-speaking world, aside from the U. S. and maybe Canada, to all somebody a cowboy is not a compliment. A cowboy contractor is not the one you want to have repairing your house. So, if the object, Chris, is to rope non-white, non-male people into the realm of the cowboy, watch out. I can see a series of ads showing such important figures, such as Martin Luther King, implying that he, too, could be a cowboy. If this sort of thing circulates outside the region the ad could be seen as crudely offensive or grossly naive. Why not market the values and attitudes that you associate with the cowboy, instead of an image you can't control?

clipper

"A cowboy contractor is not the one you want to have repairing your house." Good Lord, how do you come up with such tripe?

freeconsultant

Ask someone from the UK -- ever met one?

clipper

Off topic much?

Successful Wyo Grad

For those of you that did not grow up in Wyo (or the mid west) I am sure you wont understand this - GROW UP and stop twisting everything into an offensive issue. The word Cowboy is NOT racist, no more racist that words like race car driver, stop light, ignorant, Ram, Buffalo, etc......
I suggest that the dim witted (it hurts to call her a professor) person that is driving this go back to the east coast where this type of poo and expected. Remember to call a Cowboy when you need help

freeconsultant

Cash in your diploma -- you didn't learn anything.

clipper

That's your second post that made no sense. Batting 1.000

freeconsultant

Your synapses aren't firing. Grow up.

SgtRock

Translation for those of you who don't know DoulbeSpeak: "You made it through the acadmy without being brain washed. Shame on you."

lb-acct

Isn't a bigger elephant in the room the $500K which flowed into Colorado for consulting?

I'll donate some "meta-consulting"--next time why not use:

http://www.uwyo.edu/mgtmkt/

or other UW B-school marketing resources? They may even be more culturally sensitive. Or, how about a school wide competition (faculty/staff/students), like some of the entrepreneurial events? This would allow feedback from the UW community--a good idea before shelling out so much money to a foreign state.

Bruce Yocum

Code of the West (does not include much of CA)
1) Live each day with courage.
2) Take pride in your work.
3) Always finish what you start.
4) Do what has to be done.
5) Be tough, but fair.
6) When you make a promise, keep it.
7) Ride for the brand.
8) Talk less and say more.
9) Remember that some things
aren't for sale.
10) Know where to draw the line.

Gene Autry's Code of Honor
A cowboy never takes unfair advantage - even of an enemy.
A cowboy never betrays a trust. He never goes back on his word.
A cowboy always tells the truth.
A cowboy is kind and gentle to small children, old folks, and animals.
A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.
A cowboy is always helpful when someone is in trouble.
A cowboy is always a good worker.
A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents and his nation's laws.
A cowboy is clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.
A cowboy is a Patriot.
Be tough, but fair.

"I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I require the same from them." John Wayne in his last film "The Shootist: (1976).

xjc1069x

[thumbup]

stevehilde

“I am not the only person for whom the word ‘cowboy’ invokes a(n) ...able-bodied .... person,” Porter said.

This alone should disqualify this person's opinion. Anyone who's ever been to a local rodeo, and witnessed either participant or ranch-working spectator, knows that few cowboys are "able bodied". As with soldiers, the profession takes its toll, yet they 'cowboy on'.

OldNassau

"historians estimate that one in four cowboys were (sic) black"
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lesser-known-history-african-american-cowboys-180962144/#R3UosGuF7WJBbEL5.99

A cow is a female that has had at least one calf....A bull is a male that is able to breed.

"UW already recognizes this in its athletic programs, where men’s teams are referred to as Cowboys and women’s as Cowgirls."

So should the men's teams be called the "Bullboys"? For that matter, why are the men referred to as boys; the women, as girls?
Let's be truly modern in gender references: Bullmen and Cowwomen. Oh wait, "women" ends in "men". How about Cowfemales? Nope, same problem.
Hmmmm. Cowdistaff? Not if "staff" refers to a certain part of the male anatomy. Any suggestions??

lb-acct

I think you may be on to something. Gender neutral, species neutral: "The world needs more livestock drovers."

xjc1069x

The current trend of "political correctness" and folks' sensitivity is...what it is, I suppose. As a Native American and disabled veteran, I don't see how this slogan is offensive at all to those with disabilities or minorities. As it comes off to women, obviously I can't comment but I believe the term "Cowboys" in this context is used just as the term "Mankind" neither is excluding women, we're all part of Mankind.

Watch-Dog

Wow! Seriously Free Consultant? For a College Professor you seem totally frustrated and under- worked to have so much free time for rude and mean comments to the people who live and love the state of Wyoming and their own "Cowboys". Free Consultant -you keep going on like a wild possum in heat, just keeps going on and on with no brains involved. Wise-up look and listen with both your eyes and ears. Wyoming cowboys have been around a lot longer then you will.

wyorob

Where is my post??

fonz

This publication only supports certain points of view. They deleted my post too

wyorob

Where is my post from 1 hour ago??

fonz

I’ve got the solution. Have Cowboy Joe go transgender into Cowgirl Josephine and we acan all say WYO is fully inclusive and roll with the new slogan!

The people, objecting to this slogan are ridiculous. If they had their way the only school mascots would be animals and inanimate objects.

Brett Glass

Cowboy Joe is the pony. The humanoid mascot is Pistol Pete (two phallic references in one two syllable name!).

Brett Glass

[HONK] Make that three syllables. (Hit "post" before I finished editing.)

BTW, I wonder if the consultants whom UW paid half a million dollars for this fiasco were the same ones who came up with "Wyoming Prairie Gold."

RETCOL

For those of you who are still proud of your cowboy heritage I suggest you transfer to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma (Gene Autry grew up in southern Oklahoma on a ranch). They are also "Cowboys." (better football team too). Stop by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City and see the pride we Sooners have in our Western heritage which we teach to our children. Oh, by the way, the museum has a great exhibit on the Cowboy heritage (Spanish) and on minority Cowboys. Many belt buckles were won by Oklahoma Native Americans. If the faculty of U of W doesn't understand Western history, have them check out the Oklahoma Press at OU, recognized as the world's premiere publisher on all things Cowboy and Western history. In honor of my uncle who died as a bull rider. He was half Cherokee.

WoodBCowboy

[thumbup]

WoodBCowboy

This article peaked my interest as I am proud to call Laramie my birthplace. That said, I did most of my growing up in New Mexico. I went to New Mexico State University and am a proud Aggie. The logo of the Aggies is a .......COWBOY! As you can surmise from RETCOL's comment above mine, we Westerners love our cowboys and cowgirls. To us that moniker envisions someone who is tough and has no quit in them. Seems like a worthy mascot to me. So-called professors Christine Porter, Donal O’Toole, Tracey Patton, and Chad Baldwin should remove their triggered snowflake selves from The Great State of Wyoming! Perhaps the feces laden streets of San Francisco is where they would fit in better.

SgtRock

Looks like PC nonsense has come to the Cowboy State.

These are not my words but it's about as well as it can be said:

Dear disgruntled faculty at UW,

Guess you missed something.

I am wondering what drew YOU to our beautiful state. Because of your current statements, it obviously WASN’T Wyoming’s culture and heritage. I can only surmise that you landed here on your way to somewhere else.

My advice is continue on to that destination.

Wyoming is not going to ‘change’ because you brought with you some crazy idea of what this state SHOULD be. She is what she is.

She is the COWBOY state.

Which, by the way, is a state of mind.

Surrounded by mountains as old as time itself and prairies as far as the eye can see, Wyoming is not so much about a place on a map but a place in your soul. Her streams and rivers weave themselves into your psyche. Her vast blue skies are the pallet for all your dreams. Her crisp, clean air will make your lungs drunk.

Of course, she’s not for everyone.

She can be harsh. In an instant, those same blue skies can be filled with a thunderhead that reaches Heaven but is full of H***. And her gentle breeze can turn into gale force in a nanosecond. She can bury you in a foot snow before you can even swear. She can destroy all that you have worked for in a two minute hailstorm. She can forgo rain for months at a time and turn your world into dust.

All that in one year. Easy.

It’s her way of testing her inhabitants. She chooses you; not the other way around. If you can handle her at her worst, you will be rewarded with the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Your breath will belong to her because she will steal it with every perfect blanket of new fallen snow. And when she gives it back to you, it will have the fresh smell of rain, sage, lilac, pine and Russian olive. Her perfume will sear your soul and her beauty will brand your heart.

That’s how cowboys are made.

But I guess you’ve missed that sitting in your little cubicle tucked inside a building on the campus.

Wyoming brings out the best in folks because you have to be tough to live here. And perhaps you’ve discovered that fact living in Laramie. But it’s not just the freezing cold and the bitter wind that toughens our skin, it’s the lifestyle that toughens our souls.

Cowboys endure broken limbs and broken hearts. Nothing like trudging out in the dead of night during a May blizzard to carry a newborn calf to a warm mudroom. Or watching your field of beautiful hay get beat to death with a three minute hailstorm.

While one has to be quite dependent upon oneself in this state, we are even quicker to rally around each other. Cry for help and we come a- runnin’.

So if a bucking horse and rider is going to be slapped on your chest, we here in Wyoming are going to expect you to pull your fair share. And personally, we could not care less whatever your gender, your skin color, your religion. Do the work; reap the rewards.

My suggestion is that YOU ‘cowboy up’ and sweep the snowflakes from your front stoop and your persona. And if you are still unsure as to what that means, come on up and we’ll show you.

“Once a Cowboy, Always a Cowboy”

WoodBCowboy

To whomever wrote that ^^ my hat's off to you!

wyorob

Well this has made national news and it looks like the faculty at UW are on the defensive--How we permitted so many liberals at UW amazes me-This come down to upper admin to hire individuals that project the Wyoming way--If the current staff thinks this is offensive try applying to SF Calif or on the East Coast and fit into your surrounding are--You don't fit in here. I can't wait to hear from the Cowboy Joe Club that sends a bunch of money to UW and the Alumni Association . Good luck

Brett Glass

The University could have gone with an equally good non-gender-specific slogan, such as "The world needs more cowpokes." One syllable different, but it avoids excluding women ("boys" are not "girls") and is consistent with the University's practice of referring to its athletes of both genders as "Pokes." But they went with "cowboys" instead. What message is it sending? How will it affect enrollment? Probably not in a positive way. They wasted a dollar for every person in the state on this?

clipper

That's why you're not UW Director of Communications.

Brett Glass

Nope. I am not UW's Director of Communications because I already own and operate three other businesses. But perceptions of UW, Wyoming, and Wyomingites do affect the success of those other businesses, so I am adversely affected by University blunders such as this one.

CWP

The only "blunder" is yours.

Brett Glass

Nope. I've made my businesses successful, in part via savvy marketing, despite large corporations, regulatory agencies, and other entities threatening to crush me. This blunder - and it IS a blunder - is typical of Wyoming's crony culture (which has infected the University's Board of Trustees thanks to a recent decision to eliminate a requirement for partisan balance and to make positions on it it a political sinecure). I'm already making plans to deal with the fallout.

SgtRock

Well, if you're a millennial whose primary point of view comes from the 'find an axe and grind it' world of 'higher' education, I suspect you wouldn't like ANY slogan. Simply because a life in the academy prepares you not to critically think but simply to be outraged and run your gums about it the way Pavlov's Dogs salivated when the bell rang.

Drive safely. The World Needs More Cowboys.

clipper

UW Director of Communications Chad Baldwin vs. Professor of communications Tracey Patton, as if we needed another example of the old maxim that those who can't do, teach.

kfk

thanx to Bruce Yocum and SgtRock for the philosophical bits offered above. they may appear trite to some, but they are not.

i am UW'81, BS/CS w/honors, holding regret now and again that business took me far to the east; but i know that i am still and always a cowboy. i have never known a UW student or alum to feel any sort of shame from being called a cowboy. anyone who needs an explanation for why the new slogan is fine cannot possibly understand it and, in my opinion, would do better to further his life and career elsewhere, where they need not be troubled with disturbance to their political sensitivities. cowboys can handle criticism just fine, and know when it is to be ignored due to being badly mis-aimed.

due respect to RETCOL, but no, i do not think that UW's cowboys are in need of additional education on being cowboys. they are, naturally, self-sufficient on that front, and i think the set of politically correct and oversensitive souls whining about the new slogan are a distinct minority, loud beyond their scale. but then, that's the nature of SJWs, always cranking it up to 11.

i get back to laramie and environs when i can, last in 2014 for a memorial for parents. i hope to return again soon.

regards...[hat tip]

CWP

Outstanding post. Could not possibly agree more with you. Long may you run.

CWP

60 years old, same-sex married here. Professor, we don't need or want your protection. To anyone else, the woman doesn't speak for the two of us anyway. Wyoming, smile at the foolish professor, thank for the laughs, and keep your cowboys and your common sense. Thanks.

CWP

A little more to say.

The cowboy is one a group of world-recognized symbols of America, and Wyoming has adopted it in a variety of ways for a very long time.

The professors who object would eliminate all of that. Aside from theirbelief -- very mistaken, I think -- that this is "exclusionary," if they had simply been creative, they'd have taken a different tack and approached the university to make the campaign "inclusionary" by putting cowboy hats on all kinds of people who aren't traditional cowboys, and making it part of that marketing campaign.

It could have been a lot of fun all around, and the professors wouldn't appear so humorless, didactic, and disconnected from Wyoming. By the way, there is a kind of precedent here. I suspect the professors don't go to rodeos, because if they did they'd be aware of "tough enough to wear pink" days, where the (dare I say it) cowboys wear pink shirts, and people go through the stands collecting donations for a breast cancer charity.

Come on, professors. Join the human race, and join Wyoming.

Brett Glass

"Join the human race," eh? Attempts to dehumanize those who disagree with you are a hallmark of the ugly trolls we now see supporting sexism, racism, and neo-Naziism.

The fact is that those professors didn't get where they are by being stupid. It is we who would be foolish if we ignored their sage advice.

CWP

It's a figure of speech, o ye of paper-thin skin.

Brett Glass

It's a "figure of speech" that shows your true colors. Just like the slogan.

Words matter. And if you want to encourage the listener to do business with you, you don't turn them off or make them feel excluded. Saying, "Oh, but if you change the meanings of words to things they obviously do not mean, you're really included" does not repair the damage.

babrk

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.