It is touching to think that Boise State chose its neon colors to pay homage to the highlighters used so often by students. The tribute to our hard work is deeply appreciated. To recognize this, it appears that students’ responses to the colors have been to incorporate them into almost everything they wear, a sort of self-celebration.
Though the spirit that is transmitted through the neon colors could nearly energize, or startle, any onlooker, what is the price of this stylish addition that so many Boise State community members incorporate into their daily outfit? Though purchases of blue and orange apparel through the campus bookstore do support scholarships, shouldn’t the worth of scholarships be evident without people needing to be rewarded for their contribution? And furthermore, should Boise State be encouraging further spending on costly trivial items when many of the buyers are, or are about to be, entrenched in student loans?
I transferred to Boise State as a junior and was immediately shocked by the amount of school color that I saw around me. I had gone to the University of Idaho before, and the school’s colors were gold and black. Although the apparel was donned by many campus members in Moscow, it didn’t stand out in the same way the Bronco colors did. Another distinction I have noticed is that my sole association with the colors of Boise State is the sports program. I may have joked earlier about blue and orange being suggestive of student highlighters, all jokes aside, the colors were designed for sports teams, not for an institution of learning.
This is an important distinction. With irrefutably low 4 to-6-year graduation rates, Boise State is somehow still scarily good at promoting its sports program. Though the pervasive argument for so much marketing is the monetary support the university gets, it can become unclear what the purpose of the university in general. Do the sports supporters really care about our primary purpose as an academic institution at all?
I do not mean to suggest that students who wear orange and blue are less likely to graduate, and I do believe that campus benefits from the unifying aspects of our colors. However, it is important to recognize the ways in which buying into anything, and encouraging people to buy into things, can alter or blur our personal set of values.
The flashiness of Boise State colors is a deliberate tactic to encourage students to buy into the high-energy sports culture that is pervasive on campus. As long as people can engage with that, while still recognizing that the average student experience has little to do with that perfectly marketed culture, I see no problem. However, the university has an obligation as the promoter of these commodities, to ensure that students understand the importance and value of the rest of the culture; other forms of student involvement should receive equal attention to the ones who garner — but also cost — millions of dollars a year.