Following a plethora of questions from students following the Us. rebrand – as well as some controversy and even a petition – tonight our union held an open meeting in order for Union President Benjamin Franklin to answer students’ questions about the ongoing rebranding. At 6pm the Bridge was buzzing with a high turnout of students and the following hour and a half saw multiple hands in the air at all times, students all eager to ask about the rebrand.
To start, Ben Franklin gave a short run through of some of the frequently asked questions so far. He covered some of the motivations for the rebrand such as the need to “tie together all that we do” and went through the process of creating it, including the survey with 2500 respondents, the student workshop and a consultation with a branding agency. He also clarified that “this project started before I even got here”, dispelling rumours that the rebranding was a personal project instead of part of the goal to improve the University of Southampton’s union that had become a “toxic brand”.
Then, Ben opened the room to questions.
Some students questioned why there was not a referendum on the rebranding. Ben explained that a “more in depth consultation was needed” and that a “simple yes no answer was not appropriate” and “would not capture the richness of opinions” amongst students.
Others inquired about Winchester School of Art’s involvement in the rebranding, questioning why the logo was not designed by someone at Winchester. Benjamin elaborated that the “whole process […] was a lot of hours of work” and therefore not a fair or realistic burden to place on a full time student. However, Winchester students did submit designs to the branding agency that were then reviewed, and these designs will be made public to students in the near future.
Many students questioned the democratic process involved in the rebranding, leading onto a discussion about the flaws in student politics and this year’s corrective democracy review.
— WS Opinion (@WessexOpinion) May 18, 2016
At one point, the creator of the Change.org petition to “reverse SUSU’s rebrand” took to the limelight to air her views. She stated that the petition was “most representative” of students at the University of Southampton. Benjamin countered that although he takes the petition seriously, there were problems with it. He went on to say that a function is currently being added to the union website in order for students to petition in a way that ensures every signature on the petition represent one University of Southampton student. Indeed, Barrack Obama, as well as Benjamin Franklin himself, have allegedly signed the current Change.org petition.
— Wessex Scene (@WessexScene) May 18, 2016
Things got emotional throughout the meeting, one student loudly lamenting “we’re attached to the SUSU brand”. On a more negative note, after the meeting ended some students also expressed a disappointment with the “personal attacks” that occured during the meeting, whilst the rebranding was being discussed and debated.
To conclude the meeting, Benjamin Franklin clarified that the new brand “is not supposed to be corporate or unfeeling” but that it allows “consistency”, “flexibility” and a “modern” brand that does not “hark back to the old union”, prior to the democracy review and all the other changes that have been made by Sabbs this year.
Benjamin Franklin told the Wessex Scene:
I’m really happy with the turnout of the event, it shows that when we have single issue discussion we see peaks in engagement which is a really promising sign for the new democracy system. The questions were really well thought out and so if students want a follow up to their answer, they can contact me over email or via You-Make-Change as I want to do my best to answer them all.
SUSUTV live streamed the meeting, which you can watch in full on their Facebook page.