New University of Akron President Scott Scarborough announced in May that the school was being rebranded as “Ohio’s polytechnic university.” He justified the change by asserting that the university “needs a new, distinct identity to attract students and survive in the future.”
But, according to an article by Rick Armon published in the Akron Beacon-Journal, “the University of Akron isn’t the only college going polytechnic”:
“Purdue University last month approved changing the name of its College of Technology to the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.
“And Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, Wash., wants to add the word polytechnic as a descriptor for its campus.
“Both institutions say the branding works well with the changing economy.
“’It incorporates innovative learning environments, integrates humanities with technical studies in a learn-by-doing atmosphere, and offers new options for majors and for earning a degree,’ Gary Bertoline, dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, said in a prepared statement.”
This is all well and good, but the word “polytechnic” has actually been part of some university names for a very long time. In fact, quite ironically, the name of the third largest university in Virginia was changed to Virginia Polytechnic University in 1944, but for a long while, just about everyone has preferred to call the university Virginia Tech. Somehow I don’t think that Akron Tech or even Ohio Tech has the same ring to it.
So this story illustrates several truisms about administrative brainstorms:
1. What is presented as new or innovative, is almost never either but, instead, something that is either recycled or imitative, or both.
2. What is presented as a “difference maker” almost never makes any substantive difference and, in fact, very often produces almost the opposite of the intended result.