“Because it’s basically Heaven on Earth, but instead of angels, there are f—ing albino squirrels” is one of the many “f”ing reasons students are raving about Oberlin College and Conservatory. In October 2011, Oberlin was not afraid to receive “f”s from students and faculty ratings.
A strange independent campaign was launched by 2010 Oberlin grad and social media coordinator Ma’ayan Plaut to give a reason as to not just “why I should choose Oberlin” but “why the f— should I choose Oberlin” – the name actually given to the site. Starting with only 30 tag-lines, the site went viral with 1,500 submissions in the first 24 hours and 15,000 visitors to the site a week after the launch, according to an Inside Higher Ed article, an online site dedicated to higher education news.
While the college has not come out to endorse the website because of the profanity used to lace the school, Ben Jones, the vice president for communications at Oberlin, called the site “a wonderful communal love letter to Oberlin,” according to the article.
It is hard not to be skeptical at the site which resembles a drunken freshman prank, but the number of visitors speaks for itself.
With the site receiving mixed reviews by Oberlin student and faculty, the most common expression for the rogue site is “edgy” and “genius.” As the renegade Oberlin love letter has continued to stay alive and run its course, media coordinators have looked at the school and questioned whether expansion for the idea is possible and if colleges would welcome the idea of having their school represented in such a way long term.
“Even with the drawback of having the bad language, it’s the perfect example of what social media can do to help an institution market itself,” Elizabeth Scarborough, CEO and Partner of SimpsonScarborough marketing research firm, said in the article..
While such a review by an acclaimed marketing research firm praises the effort, the edge of the profanity still leaves a distaste with skeptics.
Although the profanity is embraced by youth — whose jargon largely includes the word in question — it still alienates more conservative and elder crowds with affiliation to the school, including marketers. With any attempt to give a product an edge comes the idea to create something new and invent an image that has not been exploited before.
This may be the case with dropping the “f” bomb to promote Oberlin. Just because the site has gone viral once does not necessarily mean that it would go viral again with…say…TCU.
Since the “f”ing site is an experimental approach to raising student involvement with their school, the attention raised by the student body at Oberlin is exceptional and gets the people excited. The anonymity gets the people’s attention and makes them want to contribute more to the tag-lines.
From the success at Oberlin, not only is a TCU opinion columnist toying with the idea of what would happen if the site expanded to TCU, I am thinking that by keeping the sight an unofficially endorsed initiative the idea would catch like wild-fire around campuses and continue to raise attention through the unlikely Quentin Tarantino-esque endorsement of student pride.
“If they had made a site ‘Why I should choose Oberlin,’ it would have gotten 10 submissions,” an Oberlin faculty member said in a review. “People like to respond to things that are unusual.”
This is the same reason such an unusual approach should be tested by more colleges.
Mary Gonsiorek is a senior English major from Fort Worth.