This is your sign, UMass

Your sign has a typo


Courtesy of Maxwell Zeff

By Maxwell Zeff, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

University of Massachusetts, your sign has a huge typo in it, and you need to fix it. Right in the middle of campus, between the Campus Center and the Integrative Learning Center, sits a banner celebrating our hockey team’s national championship, featuring players gathered around their trophy. Next to them reads the words: “Being revolutionary. Is being #1.” Neither of the two sentences are grammatically correct; that period should not be there. It’s reminiscent of a word problem from my sixth grade English class. So why, at one of the most prestigious public universities in the country, is there a huge mistake on a banner in the middle of campus? A banner saying how we’re the best, nonetheless?

I reached out to UMass to ask about this typo. “Rest assured, we were intentional with our copy choice. Writing marketing copy for a banner like this is different than when one is writing an article where strict grammatical standards logically apply,” responded UMass Chief Marketing Officer Key Nuttall in an email.

Unfortunately, this response does not allow me to “rest assured.” This was not a mistake someone made. This was an intentional choice by UMass’ marketing team to plaster a grammatical error in the middle of our campus. That is deeply upsetting to me. I strongly feel that marketing copy at a university should follow basic grammar rules, especially when the banner hangs adjacent to our school’s journalism and communication departments. I’d understand using incorrect grammar for a catchy slogan like, “You can’t out Pizza the Hut,” or “America runs on Dunkin,” but UMass’s new slogan, “Being revolutionary. Is being #1.” would just make more sense if it were grammatically correct. It gains nothing from that period being there.

At this point you might be saying to yourself, Max, did you really need to write an entire article about a single misplaced period on a sign? The answer is yes, because signs are important. Signs throughout history are often looked back on as cultural records, transporting us to different periods in time. Signs throughout the Civil Rights Era labeling black and white drinking fountains denote a dark time in our country’s racial history. Protest signs reading “make love, not war,” tell the tale of the American hippie movement protesting the Vietnam war in the 1960s. Today, Black Lives Matter signs have been posted on lawns and storefronts nationwide to issue statements of support for the movement.

Signs have meaning. They print our values, our ambitions and our fears into existence. Signs are an ultimate form of expression, emblazing our ever-changing thoughts and feelings onto something permanent that will serve as a historical record for generations to come. They help future generations understand us, what we value and what we thought was important at the time. And yet, this is our sign. A sign saying UMass is number one, while we’re still making elementary grammar mistakes.

This sign, posted in the middle of campus, is especially upsetting because it is representative of UMass’ sloppy rush to be first at everything. UMass is a rankings-obsessed school. We pour millions into our number one dining program, we constantly flaunt our rise in public university rankings and now that we’re the best at hockey, we’re flaunting that too. This university is trying to rush towards being an elite university, and in doing so, making careless mistakes. UMass built a state-of-the-art student union this year, and yet we don’t have enough busses running to take students to campus. Similarly, we recently opened our new Worcester Dining Commons, but its severe understaffing has made lines a significant issue in the first week of classes. Frankly, this sign reinforces that UMass is not number one.

This is not UMass’ first flub around signage and it won’t be its last. In 2018, the Daily Collegian reported that a UMass residence director asked a student to take down a sign saying “F*** Nazis You Are Not Welcome Here,” because they wanted to talk to the student about the sign’s “impact on the community.”

I’d ask UMass the same question about its sign’s impact on the community. What kind of message does a grammatical error posted on our school’s journalism and communication departments send to the community? To me, it makes UMass come across as a place that doesn’t value education as much as it values rankings. Our success in rankings and sports is not as important as our basic pillars of education, such as grammar.

In summary, signs matter. As a person who has dedicated my undergraduate career to studying the importance of words and the stories they tell, it’s embarrassing that my university would plaster such a mistake right beside my daily walk to class. UMass needs to get the small stuff right before taking on the title of number one. We need to walk before we can run, and UMass, your first step in the right direction is fixing this sign.

Maxwell Zeff can be reached at [email protected].