A new slogan at the University of Wyoming – “The world needs more cowboys” – is drawing criticism as racist, sexist and counterproductive to recruiting out-of-state students.
Associate professor Christine Porter told The Laramie Boomerang the new slogan evokes images of stereotypical western icons in the minds of some faculty and misrepresents UW’s research and educational goals.
“I care most about our university having a slogan that makes all people feel welcome here,” Porter 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.”
The objections are two-fold. Porter 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.
The UW Committee on Women and People of Color also object to the new slogan. The organization wrote a letter to UW Director of Communications Chad Baldwin and University 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, at UW.”
Faculty Senate Chair Donald O’Toole told The Boomerang 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.”
The slogan is part of a $1.4 million investment to advertise to prospective students in and outside Wyoming. The university paid a Colorado marketing firm $500,000 to develop the campaign.