I know that this is really long, but bear with…
Lately the blog came under fire from probably the last place you would expect—the office of the NESCAC itself. Basically, the NESCAC office took issue with the portrayal of the chapel on the top of the banner-staff (depicted on the back of the ‘Cac tees) and asked for its removal, as it “constituted a violation of their intellectual property.”
They felt that the t-shirt design was harmful to their “brand,” and did not want to be affiliated with it through an artistic rendering of the NESCAC logo. They also asked that our Twitter and FB icons and blog masthead be changed.
I switched the icons and masthead to their old design, but I pushed back on the matter of the t-shirts. A lot of money was spent to order the shirts, and I also happen to be inherently skeptical of anyone who tries to infringe on what I feel are my rights to free expression.
Let me be clear: I did not push back out of disrespect for the NESCAC office and the important job that they do. There would be no ‘Cac without the NESCAC. I pushed back because I believe that “branding” is the dark side of electronic progress. The NESCAC doesn’t belong to two middle aged professionals sitting in an office in Hadley. It belongs to the student athletes that pour their time and sweat into perfecting their game, and those that cheer them on. And at the end of the day the ‘Cac is not purely an athletic experience, it is also a social and academic one. Because athletes have made the choice to come to a DIII school and flex both their mind and body, and because after a long day of conditioning sometimes you just want to pour @BeersInThePants.
So… how did this all go down?
The NESCAC office had one of my writers’ personal contact information, but instead of getting in touch with him directly to ask him to stop selling the shirts they used their authority to contact him via his school’s athletic director–thereby implying that his varsity athletic standing could be threatened should he choose not to comply.
That was wrong. Contacting my writer through his athletic department was, whether intended in this way or not, an act of intimidation. That is not how I do things.
I am not a varsity athlete, nor do I profess to speak for varsity athletes #inthecac, but I do think that an athlete has just as much right to self-expression as a NARP.
Furthermore, the notion that the NESCAC could use Bowdoin’s private (vs. public) institution-hood to control what is sold here—an option that was floated at me personally—is troubling to say the least.
The NESCAC’s first step in this series of events set the tone that they would use what authority they have to censor our free speech, all because they thought we violated their intellectual property rights–an allegation which would later prove to be false.
The NESCAC had the blog’s contact information from the webpage–an e-mail address that comes directly to me–but I never heard from them. When my writer relayed to me what had happened, I approached the NESCAC office to iron out the issue.
I talked with the Assistant Director of Conference Operations over the phone, at which point he explained to me the NESCAC’s concerns. The NESCAC was clear that they did not want to take formal legal action, but they insisted that they wanted the chapel removed from the shirts. They claimed that the chapel is their intellectual property; though at no point in our communications did they provide me with a trademark registration number. Nor did they acknowledge that the logo on our shirts is a hand-drawn inexactitude with the intention of parody. Later I would learn that the chapel is not actually registered as a trademark.
Meanwhile, I was clear that I felt I was within my rights to proceed with selling the shirts. I also asked the assistant director whether he was “salty that we have more followers on Twitter,” which he unconvincingly denied. We both expressed sympathy for the other’s position.
After contacting an intellectual property lawyer and forwarding a picture of the shirt and a picture of the NESCAC logo, our instincts were proven correct–we were, and still are, well within our rights to continue to sell the t-shirts…
But in the end we took out the chapel in the spirit of maintaining a good relationship with the conference office, with the clear understanding that this was our choice. It so happened that the back of the shirts had not been printed yet, and it seemed like the right thing to do.
In The ‘Cac was inspired by the notion that the NESCAC is not just an athletic conference, but a shared social experience. “In the ‘Cac” is the same casual abbreviation we’ve been throwing around since who knows when, and I adopted the term to denote this shared experience.
Reluctantly, I compare the ‘Cac to the Ivy League: once just an athletic conference that popular culture has turned into an entity of shared characteristics, values, and concerns—all because of public discourse. As participants in human culture, how we think about things affects the way in which we talk and write about them. What we talk about and read affects how we think.
I intended to use the tools social media have provided our generation to begin a conversation about what most of us already think and know—that the schools that make up the NESCAC are more alike than not. By starting this conversation, we could use a blog/Twitter/FB to talk about the ‘Cac in a unified way, enforcing the perception that we are indeed a unified body.
I like theme parties, and you probably like theme parties. I like to drive around and blast bad eighties music, you probably do too. I really hate it when they don’t put out craisins in the salad bar for over a month…you probably don’t give a shit.
The point is, we’re fundamentally similar. We chose the ‘Cac.
And along with the rest of America’s yuppies we’re coming to find that social media are awesome. They are a big deal and allow for a new type of remote gathering and solidarity and (not to mention hilarious novelty accounts @middtwitt @TC_trinning @EphBitch.)
The internet is egalitarian, social media are egalitarian, the young and restless are egalitarian—and we are shaping the world in so much as we choose to embrace progress. (Don’t believe me? I found out that Amy Winehouse died from Twitter, I found out that Steve Jobs died from Twitter, I found out that an earthquake was literally happening under my ass from Twitter.)
I wonder whether the NESCAC understands the impact of what we’re trying to do online, and–if they did truly understand–whether they would have come down so hard to defend what they referred to as their “brand” against a harmless parody.
Not everyone likes the blog, but a lot of people do. I’ve had a classmate write, “Initiatives like this make me embarrassed to be a student at a NESCAC school, and do not accurately depict the ideology of NESCAC students. These failed attempts at humor and unoriginal social commentary are unsolicited by the NESCAC members.” And for the record, I still say hi to him in the dining hall.
I’ve had a ‘Cac alum that I’ve never met write to me, “seriously, fucking awesome blog. I’m obsessed with it. It’s a matter of time before my boss wonders if ‘Cac is a new street drug.”
I’ve had a friend tell me that they think about job interviews in a whole new way– feeling a common bond if the interviewer is ‘Cac, and not merely an alumni of Bowdoin.
If I could close on a somewhat pedantic note that encompasses how I feel about my talks with the NESCAC and the creation of the blog I’ll say this: If you want something in this life you go after it. If it doesn’t want you back you laugh in its face and create a better opportunity for yourself. This is what it’s like to be young.
I don’t know what it’s like to be old, but I want to make sure that it’s not sitting around dwelling on missed opportunities…because to me that sounds like running into Barry Manilow at a toga party and getting trapped in a conversation about his cats (aka torture.)
Righteous Tees had a t-shirt design and they did it. I had an idea for a blog and I freakin’ did it. We’re young, we’re America, we’re ‘Cac– and if you don’t remember that when you wear your ‘Cac shirt, you better take it off and give it to somebody who does.
p.s. Righteous Tees sent me this clip mid-week for a much needed laugh…