While perusing the many booths at this year’s Festifall, students may have noticed that some student groups looked a bit different.
Is the University’s enforcement of the trademark policy unfair?
Recently, University officials have cracked down on student organizations they say were improperly using the University’s logo or name, causing some of the most well-known campus groups like Blood Battle and Dance Marathon to change their names.
Though the University adopted the “official” Michigan logo — a block ‘M’ — in 2002, officials only recently started cracking down on its use, according to Ruth Gretzinger, senior project manager under the vice president for communications.
Gretzinger said the enforcement of the use of University trademarks is a process that has been going on for more than a year.
“It’s a genesis of taking a look at how students and other people are using the mark and how they’re describing themselves,” she said.
In an e-mail sent to all student groups in April by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership, the University requested that those associations in violation of the rule change their name.
“The Student Organization Naming Policy states that no student organization may use ‘The University of Michigan,’ ‘U-M,’ or any derivative in the beginning of its name, unless it is a sponsored student organization,” the Office of Student Activities and Leadership wrote in the e-mail.
Sponsored student organizations — ones funded by the Michigan Student Assembly — are allowed to use certain aspects of the University’s name since they are more affiliated with the University than voluntary student organizations, which do not receive funding.
Though sponsored student organizations are allowed to use parts of the University’s name, only groups sponsored by a University department can use the University’s marks.
“What we were trying to do was make a clear distinction between things that are actually official parts of the University of Michigan and organizations that are associated with the University but aren’t ‘official’ parts of the University,” Gretzinger said. “The reasoning was we wanted the student-sponsored organizations to be able to show that they were associated with the University.”
In order to help enforce the new policy University officials are educating groups on the policies and provisions of the change through websites and e-mails. Gretzinger added that officials would be willing to work with groups directly.
Mark Hindelang, assistant director of the Office of Student Activities and Leadership, said that the new information campaign is a shift from past procedure.
“In the past we’ve done just a posting on a website and put it inside of the recognition process, so when students go through that and create their student organizations or renew their student organizations for each year, they see those policies and regulations,” Hindelang said.
Many groups like Dance Marathon, Blood Battle and the College Democrats are changing their names this year, Hindelang said, because of the increased education efforts. He added that many groups didn’t need to make changes.
“We were approached by the logos team to see how we could step up the education about those policies because there were some pretty flagrant violations of them, and so we stepped up the education efforts and I think that’s the effect we’re seeing this year,” said Hindelang.
Tom Duvall, vice chair of College Democrats, said the group had to change its name from the University of Michigan College Democrats to the College Democrats at the University of Michigan, because of the rule.
“In reality, it’s not that big of a change for us,” he said.
Another organization affected by the enforcement of the rule was the student group formerly known as University of Michigan Dance Marathon. The group began the renaming process as early as October 2008, according to LSA senior Kathleen Olson, executive director of Dance Marathon.
“I think at some point (the trademark policy) was known but the University hadn’t really been enforcing it,” Olson said. “But I think that (Dance Marathon) did know that the rule was in existence.”
Gretzinger said that her office provided the group with other name options, like Michigan Dance Marathon but the group chose to use Dance Marathon at the University of Michigan instead.
“We’re actually really excited about our new name,” Olson said.
— Allie White contributed to this report.