University’s Decision to Keep ‘Controversial’ Cowboy Slogan Pays Off

March 18, 2019 Updated: March 19, 2019

A decision from the University of Wyoming’s (UW) board of trustees to keep its school’s cowboy slogan featured in a promotional video in July 2018 has paid off—despite around two dozen professors who claimed the slogan was sexist and xenophobic, among other criticisms.

The college’s new marketing tagline, “The World Needs More Cowboys” encouraged students to be courageous—regardless of their gender. The school’s mascot is also a cowboy.

UW President Laurie Nichols described the slogan as defining the “inner spirit of curiosity and boldness that all who call themselves Cowboys and Cowgirls can identify with—no matter their race or gender, or whether they’re students, employees, alumni or other supporters.”

Amid the criticisms and protests, the college’s board voted unanimously to move forward with the campaign, which has since reaped the benefits, including national awards.

UW’s bookstore sold out of T-shirts with the cowboy tagline in the first week they hit the shelves. The college, responding to demand, put the slogan on a range of other products and sold roughly 5,000 items in the first six months. Between July and December 2018, royalties were up $38,000 over the same period in 2017 as the school licensed 143 different products with the tagline to third-party vendors, The Wall Street Journal reported.

During the protest, associate professor of kinesiology and health Christine Porter complained that the word “cowboy” invokes a “white, macho, male, able-bodied, heterosexual, U.S.-born person” according to Campus Reform.

Happy Homecoming Week, Pokes!! . . There are a lot of fun activities taking place both on and off campus this week! For a list of scheduled events and activities, click on the following link: http://www.uwyo.edu/alumni/homecoming/student_activities.html. #TheWorldNeedsMoreCowboys

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UW’s Committee on Woman and People of Color reacted similarly, saying it “risks casting UW as a place where only people who identify with white, male, and able-bodied connotations of ‘cowboy’ belong.”

Communications professor Tracey Owens Patton also claimed “what goes behind the term cowboy” is “erasure, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and genocide,” reported the Journal.

UW President Nichols later defended the slogan in the university’s magazine. She noted that the video has been viewed close to 400,000 times on the unpaid web platforms where they placed it.

“As the anthem video states, it’s not what you are that makes you a Cowboy or Cowgirl, but who you are,” she wrote. “We expect very positive results in the form of increased inquiries and enrollment of prospective students—in addition to sales of “The World Needs More Cowboys” merchandise.”

UW Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Chad Baldwin said in a 2018 statement that the response from the people of Wyoming had been “overwhelmingly positive.”

It comes as President Donald Trump vowed on March 2 to sign an executive order that will require universities and colleges to protect free speech on campuses or risk losing federal research funds.

UW student Jessie Leach, also a correspondent to Campus Reform told Fox & Friends last week that “outrage culture” on campuses was to blame.

“I was born and raised in Wyoming … and I’ve never once related the words cowboy with ‘genocide,’ ‘xenophobia,’ anything like that,” she said. “When they claim that this slogan is sexist and it’s xenophobic—cowboys exist all over the world. But beyond that … they’re completely missing the point. The point of the slogan is to say the world needs more people with the cowboy spirit, and that’s the spirit of hard work, determination, self-reliance, and integrity.”

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