To be clear, I am very appreciative of the 250th committee and everything they have sponsored and organized for us in the past few months. I think it’s amazing that by sheer luck we are students during this epic marker of Brown’s history, and that we get to benefit from all the festivities thrown in the university’s honor. I love fireworks and big building-shaped cakes. I’m a huge fan of cool-alum panels, I own a copy of The Brown Reader, and I thought bringing Binder to the Main Green on a Sunday for alumni and their frolicking children to enjoy was an especially nice touch. But it has to be said: “Imagine Brown 250+” is an incredibly dumb phrase.
I hate “Imagine Brown 250+” so, so much. It makes no sense. It is on a flag pole every thirty feet, plastered on giant signs on buildings, on sweatshirts in the bookstore, and thrown around like crazy in casual conversation and yet no one acknowledges that it makes no sense.
Years of college-level textual analysis have taught me well, so I’m capable of explaining why this phrase sucks on many levels. Firstly, there is the meaning of the phrase. Think for a second about what the phase “Imagine Brown 250+” is trying to communicate. It says, hey, let’s think about Brown in an unspecified time in the future. That’s actually not what the past few months of celebration have been about at all.
Pretty much all of these events have celebrated the fact that Brown has existed for 250 years in the past, and that it is still standing in all its glory today. Mostly we’ve been reminiscing with famous alumni about how cool Brown is, there have been new statues and random lectures commemorating stuff from the past, and also acknowledgement of Brown’s brilliance right now in the present. WE TOTALLY HAVE NOT BEEN FOCUSED ON BROWN IN THE 250 PLUS REGION. THE FOCUS IS THE PAST AND SOMETIMES THE PRESENT.
Here are some actually accurate descriptions of the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Brown University:
- “Remember Brown 250-”
- “Celebrate 250 years of Brown”
- “It’s the 250th anniversary of Brown University”
- “Imagine a Celebration of Brown”
And so on. These are accurate accounts of what is occurring in the 250th year of Brown’s existence.
“Imagine Brown 250+” would maybe be a good name for, like, Paxson’s Strategic Plan. (I also think the Strategic Plan is poorly named because what good plan is not strategic, but that’s a separate matter.) But I think we can all agree that the focus of this 250th anniversary is not Paxson’s Strategic Plan.
Another problem with “Imagine Brown 250+” is that it actually does not sound good. It is not even a little bit catchy. It is not easy to say. It does not roll of the tongue. It is actually kind of difficult to say, so people tend to either say it fast, as if to mask the stupidity of the phrase, or else often shorten it to “Brown 250+.” This is just so horrible and almost makes the whole thing stupider, because saying “Hey, are you going to that Brown 250 plus thing today?” makes everything even less accurate, as if all these events are somehow taking place in the future, or we forgot to add another element to the anniversary of Brown celebration (i.e. it’s the 250th, plus cake or plus Binder). What is this “plus” implying when you say “250 plus”?!
The worst part about all this is the lack of questioning of the phrase, which honestly puts the Brown community in a bad light. I hate to be that person, but what does it say about us that we are so fine with a clearly nonsensical and ill-sounding phrase present everywhere on campus, never once giving it a second thought? We are so much more educated, thanks to this 250 year old institution, than that.