DU testing favorability of the term “Pioneers” in new 2020 brand study

The University of Denver is testing favorability of the term “Pioneers” as part of a 2020 brand reputation study.

This is believed to be the very first time that the University has included its own 95-year-old nickname as part of brand testing. It is also interesting that this testing is being carried out in the summer months, during a pandemic and during a time of racial conflict in the country. It’s also not clear who is receiving the survey. Some DU alumni have received it while others have not, and we’re not yet clear on what other audiences are being surveyed as well.

Respondents to the survey are asked to first weigh-in on a battery of positive and negative attributes that might be associated with the brand personality of DU, before being asked the specific question: How favorably do you view the term “Pioneers” as it relates to the University of Denver? 

Pioneer Survey Screen
This question in DU’s new brand study probes favorability for the word “Pioneer” as it related to the University of Denver. Photo: 2020 Brand Study Screen Capture

There are five options to select from for that question, ranging from “Extremely unfavorably” to “Extremely favorably”. Next, there is an open text box where respondents are asked to “explain” their answer, once they select one of the five favorability choices.

While brand studies are routine for universities every 7-10 years (DU did its last one in 2012), the University is clearly mulling the future of the term. The favorability scale allows the University to claim they know where respondents stand. However, the unusual timing of the survey, the availability of a “neutral” response, the fact that surveys are being sent only to select alumni, as well as the likelihood that it is also being sent to other audiences will give the University-wide latitude to put its proverbial thumb on the scale in interpreting and presenting the results.

While we don’t know what DU leadership will do with the results of this survey, we remind them of the promise that Chancellor Robert Coombe made to the DU community in 2008, when he declared in his open letter to the DU Community that “One thing is certain — We [DU] will always be the Pioneers.”

19 thoughts on “DU testing favorability of the term “Pioneers” in new 2020 brand study”

  1. Let me make a wild guess…Pioneers is gone and the brand study takes the heat. What a lack of courage by DU.

  2. I tend to agree with Ranger. The alumni’s trust level with University Leadership is very low – only 19% have confidence in senior leadership across all alumni segments in the 2019 DU alumni survey.

    Even among donors who give $10,000+ (the people who really love the place), confidence in DU leadership is only 42%, which is extremely telling.

    I am hoping Pioneer fans make their presence felt in this survey. With DU facing multi-million deficits, the last thing DU should do is piss-off the alumni who love Pioneers…

  3. 5 years of trashing, removing and labeling Pioneers as murderers – what do you expect? Instead of leading and educating, DU wants to use a survey to let people identify what DU should be? That is their job to show some leadership and ‘own’ who they are instead of listening to the mob. So disappointed in my alma mater.

  4. The University of Wyoming’s response to complaints about ‘Cowboys’ was a campaign – “The World Needs More Cowboys”. No more controversy. They showed leadership. That sent a clear message and ended the discussion. A nickname is merely a nod to the past – not a reflection of today. DU has bigger, more important issues to address than an outright attack on their traditions. They could not have picked a worse time for this ‘poll’. I went to DU and did not receive the poll. Why not?

  5. I agree with all comments thus far…
    I did receive the survey, am alum, and tried to answer the questions in such a way that they can’t misinterpret my feelings, including Extremely Favorable answer to the Pioneers name question. There are 23 other colleges who use the name. I wonder if they are facing the same kind of heat from a handful of unhappy extremists?
    When they took away Boone I ceased donating to everything but athletics. If they drop the Pioneer name I will stop giving altogether.

  6. Oh, the hypocrisy. Install Native American statues in the middle of campus and at the engineering building. Hang Cheyenne and Arapaho flags – all just fine. Then, ditch a beloved ‘western’ mascot, pass a sneaky mask ban, remove ‘Pioneers’ quietly from ID cards, awards and orientation. Have professors label Pioneers genocidal figures and hire (and pay) Inclusive Excellence and IRISE staff to create division on what was once a fairly unified campus. Turn the other cheek to unproven claims of ‘institutional racism’ on the DU campus and run as fast as you can from your heritage – thinking that will unify everyone on campus. Just know that ‘decolonizing DU’ may look like complete with Pioneers gone but that is merely another appetizer for a group intent on dismantling DU – not uniting it. Interesting that the brand survey never brings up educational value (cost) and a Campus ‘open to all points of views’. DU is an echo chamber and this is the problem with a school in search of an identity.

  7. Which department/division is responsible for the survey? This DU alum did not get a survey and would like to express my opinion.

  8. Contact Brandon Buzbee in Development. You should be able to go to DU.edu and get the directory and search for Brandon. The directory shows his email and telephone.

  9. Crap like this is partly why I don’t really care that DU is feeling the financial crunch from COVID. In fact, the fat desperately needs to be trimmed. Case in point they are focusing their energy on changing the mascot name during this time instead of making some hard decisions to keep costs down and enhance the education component. As I stated a while ago I have frozen my financial stewardship to the university and will continue to do so until they get their priorities in order. I will not subsidize a culture of victimhood by upper-middle class whiners. I suggest emailing the powers that be, especially if you have ever donated. Money talks. I’ll be generous to other causes in the meantime.

    And as an aside I never got the survey. I’m confident that wasn’t an oversight.

  10. I don’t know what they are doing..do they? DU was a key component of my final will. Stress “was”. I have now replaced DU with the London School of Economics . I wish them luck.
    Thomas f Conlon, Esq.
    London

  11. I am glad they are doing this. Their final decision on this issue will direct my level of comm$tment as well.

  12. They will send the survey to the people that they think will support whichever way they are leaning. Then feign surprise at the strong opposition to be Pioneers in the survey results. Sadly predictable. You want to bet that every single member of the group that is pushing its radical agenda received the survey? I did not receive it. If they change the name, then I, too, will be done supporting DU financially. The school ranking will dip further as close to zero alums will be donating to DU, one of the criteria in US news and world report. What a revolt they will see from alumni if they ever change the name

  13. Great points above. Add me to the “No Pios No Donor” List.

    Everyone has to fill in a Survey or we deserve our Fate.

    It is such a shame we have to go through this seemingly every year. What a waste of resources & energy.

  14. “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”
    Reduced to a… survey
    ode to all matters of irony
    And there’s your sign

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