Some question U seal’s use

One "U" official said the seal's use on alcohol-related merchandise promotes heavy drinking.

Paul Sand

University student Ryan Bender said he used to drink with the Board of Regents every weekend.

Bender, a second-year biomedical engineering major, and his friends drank whiskey shots from glasses with the official University seal – a circle containing the Latin motto “a common bond for all the arts” and four images signifying the sciences, and the industrial and fine arts.

“Taking a shot in Frontier Hall last year became taking a ‘board’ – as in the Board of Regents,” he said.

Bender said his friends enjoy drinking from the glasses, even though he does not understand the appeal.

“I got a shot glass for Christmas from my older brother and it ended up being kind of a hit. Everyone else bought one,” he said.

University Bookstores sell a variety of merchandise with the official seal – shot glasses, beer mugs and wine glasses have the seal, as do T-shirts and coffee mugs and more expensive items such as money clips and brass letter openers.

But some question whether the University should put its seal on alcohol-related merchandise.

Marguerite Zauner, Boynton Health Service substance abuse and health promotion specialist, said the merchandise promotes heavy drinking.

“(This) might not be the best idea, especially with everything that’s going on with the riots,” Zauner said. “I don’t think it’s helping the image.”

Alcohol-related merchandise could reinforce stereotypes of mass drinking on college campuses, she said.

Ed Ehlinger, Boynton Health Service director, disagrees. He said the merchandise with the University’s seal does not encourage drinking, and it is unlikely students are going to seek out these items, even for novelty value.

“If students drink, are they looking for something with a logo on it?” he said. “I don’t think so.”

Ehlinger said the sale of tobacco products on campus is a larger health issue than the sale of merchandise with the official seal.

University Board of Regents Chairwoman Maureen Reed said use of the University seal is something regents are always concerned with.

“The Board of Regents has a clear interest in Ö the ramifications and the messages that are given related to the use of the seal,” she said.

Regent Clyde Allen Jr. said the University is not the only college marketing products with an official seal on them. However, that does not make the decision to sell right or wrong, he said.

“It is an interesting subject that does need discussion,” he said.

Bob Crabb, director of University Bookstores, said alumni are the largest market for these souvenir items.

“I’m not crazy about it, but on the other hand, I’m not sure it would be appropriate to pull them off sale,” he said.

In an average month, the bookstore sells seven clear shot glasses with the University seal and eight frosted shot glasses, Crabb said. In comparison, the store sells 11 University “M” shot glasses and 22 wine glasses with the seal per month.

Crabb said while the shot glasses in particular do not sell well, the bookstore will continue to sell them.

“They sell well enough to carry, but they are not best sellers by any means,” he said.

Nationwide, most colleges and universities sell merchandise with the particular school’s seal, said Laura Nakoneczny, spokeswoman for the National Association of College Stores.

Insignia items – merchandise such as T-shirts, notebooks and beer mugs – total $872 million in sales per year for colleges, she said.

Nakoneczny said while the primary market for merchandise with a college’s insignia is alumni, some university bookstores have chosen to not carry alcohol-related merchandise.

“I think college stores have gotten increasingly sensitive about (the issue),” she said.

All University trademarks – Goldy Gopher, the “M,” the University title block and the seal – are owned by the Board of Regents. The University Relations department handles any internal use of the logos, while the trademark and licensing office handles any outside uses.

The seal – adopted by the Board of Regents in 1939 – is the University’s corporate seal, used to show authenticity for contracts and other documents.

Bob Hicks, assistant department director of University trademark and licensing, said the office closely examines products to license.

University policy prohibits licensing weapons, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, he said.

“We look for quality, if the product is saleable and whether it is attractive to the institution,” Hicks said.

He said 8.5 percent of a licensed product’s wholesale cost goes to the intercollegiate athletics department and to a financial aid scholarship fund. Stores selling the merchandise then make a profit off the mark-up above a product’s wholesale price, he said.

“We don’t advocate what you put in the glassware,” Hicks said. “There is a small market for it, and we try to satisfy that small market.”