Slogans instead of Substantive Institutional Change


In an opinion piece published several days ago in the Wall Street Journal, Harvey J. Graff, an English professor at Ohio State University has, in essence, provided readers with “An Education in Sloganeering” in the process of delineating why the university is a case “study in institutional puffery.”

Here are the first few paragraphs of the piece:

“Universities have always engaged in relentless self-promotion. But the relationship between rhetoric and reality has become ever more tenuous, and the line separating honest aspiration from fabrication fainter.

“The Ohio State University, where I teach, is a particularly dramatic example of this devolution. Not that it is alone-since its claims to uniqueness are based on imitating others.

“In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the university’s slogan, “Do Something Big,” morphed into “Do Something Great.” The urging of the former was deemed too ambiguous.

“’VISion 2020: Access, affordability and excellence’ is the tagline of the new president, Michael Drake. (He is an ophthalmologist.) This translates into freezing in-state tuition, increasing efforts to privatize major assets, offering small grants to undergraduates, and creating ‘economies and efficiencies.’ Those most often mentioned are purchasing toilet paper from one vendor and doing color-copying double-sided. Not mentioned are substantial staffing reductions, nor the overabundant and overpaid administrators whose reduction is promised but not realized. Staff and faculty salary increases continue at lower than national and peer-institution averages. . . . .”


Graff’s complete opinion piece is available at:



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