Dr. David Hopkins is a nice guy. A very nice guy. But, frankly, how many screw ups is a leader allowed to have before he gets shown the door. Obviously, at least 9- like a cat, if it’s Wright State, Wrong University.
Off the top of my head- we have the hiring of Jim Leftwich, former head of the corrupt Dayton Development Coalition, who was working for the state at the same time as he was working for WSU- and funneling contracts to… wait for it… himself.
Then we have former state legislator, and now, lobbyist cum consultant, Ron Wine, collecting a million a year on a “consulting contract” – except, there was no contract- to “bring opportunities” to Wright State- which reeked so badly that statehouse leader Cliff Rosenberger felt it necessary to tell his fellow legislators “use caution on everything because clearly they can’t handle themselves right now.”
And of course there is the H1-B visa scandal, where the university was sponsoring these permits to work in the U.S. for companies locally, including ones owned by some members of the board of trustees- as a modern day indentured servitude. Then in the investigation, they hired a law firm and an accounting firm and can’t figure out which one was protected by legal-client privilege when the newspaper did a Freedom of Information Act request.
As if that’s not enough to sink any mere mortal’s job, somehow, the son of the chairman of the board of trustees got hired to a $125K a year “information security job” straight out of the Air Force for a position that wasn’t posted- and the chairman voted on it. Of course, next up- a call for a $8 million “internet security upgrade” that was needed because of the very public presidential debate. One doesn’t have to wonder too hard which of the trustees was going to get the contract for this work.
Two weeks ago, the University proudly announced a “new logo” for which they went to Florida to find the talent to help rebrand them (sounds painfully like the University of Dayton going to Philly for their sports rebrand which flopped originally). This week- they chuck the work in the trash can. You can see the UD link for my list of curated local firms easily capable of doing the work- leaving mine out (I’m a Wright State grad- and have done more than a few corporate rebrands in my career).
Why Wright State ignores local talent, over and over is another sign that they don’t value their own graduates’ degrees much, nor the regional talent that they keep espousing.
Here is the gist of their reasoning for the new logo crashing and burning according to the Dayton Daily news:
Wright State University President David Hopkins says the school is scrapping a new logo that was unveiled last month for reasons that included “a number of deficiencies in the design.”
The university said Thursday that it will keep its current logo after considering feedback from community members, faculty, staff and students.
The proposed logo change — which included removing Wilbur Wright and color changes — was part of a larger rebranding effort the university launched in 2014.
Steve Gabbard, associate brand manager at Wright State, said that during the feedback process some said the logo looked too similar to logos used by Rumpke Waste & Recycling and Intel.
“The Wright Brothers connection was required,” Gabbard said. “People couldn’t imagine a logo without it.”
Hopkins sent an email to faculty and staff this week announcing the decision, but did not go into detail about why the new logo was rejected.
“Last month, we released recommended changes for campus review and input. That review has highlighted a number of deficiencies in the design,” Hopkins wrote. “At this point, the logo change is suspended and the branding effort will continue.”
Gabbard said the university initially removed the image of Wilbur next to the Wright Flyer because “it looked like someone missed the plane.”
Gabbard said WSU’s goal is to increase enrollment; each student contributes at least $10,000 to the school. Last fall’s enrollment was 18,059, according to the university’s website.
WSU paid Florida-based YorkBranding $250,000 over the past year — with the majority going toward the design of the logo. In total, the university has spent around $850,000 on its branding effort, Gabbard said.
Despite opting to keep the logo it launched nearly two decades ago, university officials say funds paid to YorkBranding were worth the cost.
What’s not clear is how they stumbled onto YorkBranding for the blame on this, because when they announced this sucky logo, they were working with another Florida firm according to that DDn article:
The new logo is part of a larger rebranding effort the university launched in 2014. Trustees recently approved a $522,200 contract with the Orlando, Fla.,-based marketing firm Push, Inc. to help lead the effort. The total cost of the rebranding wasn’t immediately available.
Once again, we seem to have a question of who did Wright State really hire? Push or York?
If Wright State really wanted to do a brand makeover, this was a topic of discussion in my very first meeting with David Hopkins over gyros. I suggested that the athletic brand “Raiders” had zero connection with the Wrights -and that the Green and Gold- selected because someone was a Packers fan made no sense either. There is a holistic approach to rebranding Wright State- but neither Push nor YorkBranding has a clue.
As to the idea that the brand mark is going to do much to change Wright State from “Beavertech” into a world class destination university, once again, someone needs to have their head examined. The fact that WSU has a “associate brand manager” is a clear indication that the university jumped the tracks long ago. The administrative bloat under Hopkins has raised costs, while faculty morale has dropped precipitously. All the new buildings do little to improve the quality of the education- and the fact that Wright State can’t find it within themselves to hire their own graduates to do their rebrand speaks clearly to how they value their own product.
Although, when they do hire their own graduates, like my classmate Bob Grant who is now the Athletic Director, his recent decision to fire the Basketball Coach, Billy Donlon, because he was failing “fan engagement” reaches new lows in reasons for firing. The man produced graduates, changed lives, and still won a lot of games, despite having the lowest paid assistant coaches in the league. He also loved Wright State and bled Green and Gold for what it’s worth. Maybe if the university spent less on hiring former congressmen like Steve Austria as “consultants” (Austria is an actual registered lobbyist) and could explain how the odd hiring of the coach’s dad as the “Director of Operations” (makes for a really odd chain of command, don’t you think) the coach might have had a better shot. As to one big-money donor complaining that WSU basketball isn’t anything like UD basketball- the first thing to question is where did this genius go to school? Wright State isn’t Harvard either, nor should it be.
All this comes down to the old maxim often attributed to Steve Jobs: “A” people hire “A” people, “B” people hire “C” people. It’s time for a complete housecleaning at Wright State from the president and the board of trustees down to the athletic director, and the “associate brand manager.”
Wright State University needs to reexamine itself from the ground up. Is it supposed to be a school with a “top 100” basketball program, and be a world renowned research facility- or is it supposed to be an affordable place for local residents to get a degree while working, or being stationed at Wright Patt?
Now that the “lobbyists” are having their way with allowing community colleges to serve outside their counties and to possibly offer 4-year degrees, why not just let Sinclair take it over and we cut overhead and tuition drastically? I guarantee Wright State would grow exponentially with tuition at $98 a credit hour- no matter what logo you put on the school- even if it looks like a local trash company.