School-sponsored slogans similar to other schools’ phrases
In college sports, many trends are copied by other schools as soon as they catch fire. Since Oregon University began utilizing endless uniform combinations every game day, many other schools followed suit by introducing their own unique combos.
But when it comes to borrowing 100-year-old slogans, the line between following trends and plagiarizing drifts into a gray area.
Lafayette makes use of other schools’ catch phrases with abandon. In the past few years, Athletic Communications has branded their social media activity with “#RollPards” and “#WeAreLafayette.”
Yet neither phrase originated on College Hill. “Roll Pards,” is an adaptation of “Roll Tide,” the cheer that’s been heard at the University of Alabama for more than a century.
A Birmingham, Ala. sports editor coined the slogan to describe a 6-6 tie between Alabama and a heavily favored Auburn squad. The field was muddy that day and the clay soil was colored red. The journalist was so inspired by Alabama’s effort that he called the team a “crimson tide.” Tides technically “roll,” so the combination of those two words as a slogan is rational. Leopards, on the other hand, are not exactly known for their rolling ability.
The latter slogan is closely associated with “We Are Marshall,” a 2006 film featuring Matthew McConaughey depicting the story of the 1970 plane crash that happened that killed 37 Marshall University football players.
According to an article by the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., the phrase was actually invented at Penn State by guard Steve Suhey in 1948. Responding to rumors that Southern Methodist University, Penn State’s opponent in the Cotton Bowl that year, wanted to meet to ask the Nittany Lions to not bring African-American players with them to Dallas. Shuey is credited with the quote, “We are Penn State. There will be no meetings.”
Both Penn State and Alabama have said they are unable to do anything about Lafayette’s use of the phrases, seeing as the respective schools do not copyright the slogans.
“Despite the fact that it may or may not affect our PR, it isn’t a trademarked phrase, and there is nothing we can do about it if other campuses want to use it,” said Jeff Hermann, Director of University Relations at Penn State.
“Being that there is no trademark, I feel that it is absolutely okay for schools to take the slogan and make it their own,” said Joe Phelps, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Alabama. “I don’t know what kind of PR that will give the school though, being that it is copied from another university.”
Lafayette says that these slogans are not the official “battle cries” of the sports teams, even though they are used frequently at games and by the school’s official social media outlets.
“We Are’ is used by many institutions, not just Penn State. Georgetown (a Patriot League football rival) uses it too,” Vice President for Communications Bob Massa wrote in an email. “It’s hardly distinctive, but is a phrase that instills pride in a college. The students initiated it and Athletic Communications helped get the word out through social media. ‘Roll Pards’ was initiated by student-athletes several years ago and caught on with other teams.”
“With both, I think their ‘sanctioned’ use is a reflection of our willingness to listen to students rather than attempt to force something that isn’t genuine,” Massa continued. “Also, there are only so many variations on these cheers or catchphrases, so for the most part, there really is no ‘unique’ ownership.”
Some students on campus think that using these slogans is a good building block toward fostering a sense of Lafayette community.
“I think that Lafayette is really striving for a sense of college pride and identity that hasn’t been present in the past few years,” Dan Bolognini ‘16 wrote in a text. “We’re starting with slogans which are popular all over and easy to bond over. Even though these aren’t ‘our phrases’ per se I feel that they are a step in the right direction towards a school with a strong, widespread sense of community.”
Others feel like the strong connotations associated with the other schools make Lafayette look unoriginal and derivative.
“I think that a slogan that feeds off the ideas of another school is representative of [those] students’ and school’s identity,” sophomore Michael Goldman said.