After clashes with Harvard’s licensing office, famed Harvard dropouts Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Matt Damon no longer “like” this year’s Freshman Class Council Harvard-Yale shirt.
The earliest designs for Harvard-Yale Facebook-themed shirts released by the FCC in early November conflicted with Harvard’s “Use-of-Name” policies, which specify in what contexts the university’s trademarks may be used. Over the last two weeks, the council consulted with the Yale College Dean’s Office and licensing officials at both universities about revising the design to conform to mandatory regulations. The final design was approved Monday, and shirts went on sale for $12 apiece Wednesday afternoon.
The original shirt design, which the FCC posted to Facebook on Nov. 3, poked fun at Harvard for failing to retain some of its most famous and successful students. The front of the long-sleeved, Facebook-blue shirts featured white text that displayed the headline “How To Be Successful At Harvard.” The subheading underneath advised, “Step 1: Drop out” and — in the formatting scheme of the social networking site — was “liked” by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Matt Damon and 69 others.
Though the initial shirt design, created by Anderson Ellis ’15, earned positive feedback from students, FCC Chair Nathan Kohrman ’15 said that when the FCC took the design to the Yale University Licensing Program, the council was told to contact the Harvard Trademark Program as well. Before Yale will give a group permission to use a Yale trademark, the group must also acquire written permission from the owners of non-Yale trademarks that appear in conjunction with the University’s logo, said Stephanie Schwartz, Yale’s associate secretary and director of marketing and trademark licensing.
“After a week of us navigating the licensing bureaucracy to little avail, Harvard ultimately told us that they took issue with our use of celebrity names in conjunction with their name.” Kohrman said.
Kevin Galvin, Harvard’s director of news and media relations, said the decision to reject the FCC’s original design was made in accordance with standard Harvard trademark policy. A long-standing policy does not permit Harvard’s trademarks — which include its name — to be used alongside “third-party trademarks” such as celebrity names, he said.
With these guidelines in mind, the FCC presented alternative options to the Harvard Trademark Program, which FCC Vice-Chair Leandro Leviste ’15 said were also rejected by the office. He added that even translating “Harvard” into Boston slang did not make the shirts meet the office’s regulations.
“We tried everything from changing the celebrities’ last names to their initials to misspelling their name as ‘Hahvahd,’” Leviste said. “Even ‘Hahvahd’ is trademarked by the university.”
After numerous brainstorming sessions, the FCC settled on a subtler approach to its initial concept. The final shirts, which went on sale to freshmen Wednesday afternoon, are nearly identical to the originals, but replace the celebrities names with the phrase “People who like this also like Social Networks, Personal Computers, and Roads Not Taken.”
The back-and-forth that occurred over Yale’s 2011 Game shirts was not the first time in recent years that the council has needed to revise its design.
In 2009, the FCC came under fire from the LGBT Cooperative and Yale College Dean Mary Miller for its use of the word “sissies,” which the Co-op called a “thinly veiled gay slur.” The FCC ultimately scrapped that shirt design on Nov. 17, four days before the Game took place.
Despite the two-week controversy over the 2011 FCC shirt design, Leviste said the council is still pleased with the final outcome.
“Granted, we’d have preferred to have kept the original design,” he said. “[But this] one got approved by Harvard and stays true to the original.”
The council increased its printing order from 650 to 800 shirts after receiving “overwhelmingly positive feedback” about both the old and new shirt designs, Leviste said, adding that the stir the shirts prompted may have actually bolstered their popularity. He said many Yale students felt that the situation validated stereotypes often touted before the Game that critique Harvard students for being “uncooperative” and “not in the spirit of the Game.”
Though Harvard’s shirt design incorporates Yale’s name, Leviste said the college’s Undergraduate Council did not consult Yale Licensing. The front of the shirt reads, “I go to Yale, #FirstWorldProblems.”
The Freshman College Council will sell its 2011 Harvard-Yale shirts outside of Commons from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.