Fletcher School rebrand sparks controversy, community outcry

The Fletcher School is pictured on Oct. 14. Ava Iannuccillo / The Tufts Daily

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy recently underwent several marketing changes, including modifying its name to “Fletcher, The Graduate School of Global Affairs,” creating a new seal and remodeling its website. The rebranding sparked community uproar and led to an internal issue between a member of the Fletcher Board of Advisors and an alumna.

Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations, said that the school initiated the changes to attract more students and increase enrollment.

“The school evaluated its current marketing efforts and other metrics of performance and concluded it needed to expand its visibility to continue to attract highly qualified applicants and boost its enrollments across all degrees,” Collins wrote in an email to the Daily.

The Fletcher School also launched a new Master in Global Affairs (MGA) degree, a 16-month program designed to build skills and expertise in one field of concentrated study. The MGA degree offers full-time and part-time options and financial aid opportunities.

Collins noted that the name change was made to be more reflective of the way in which Fletcher has transformed over the years. 

“Over the years, many current students and alumni have said the ‘Law and Diplomacy’ portion of the school’s official name does not reflect the way in which Fletcher has expanded across the many domains of global affairs,” Collins said. “Several years ago the school moved away from ‘law and diplomacy’ in its marketing efforts, but the change was never fully implemented. Part of the recent effort was to address this lack of consistency in the school’s name.”

However, the rebranding of Fletcher has prompted controversy among students and alumni for several reasons. 

Fletcher alumna Aziza Mohammed (F’12), who created a petition against the rebranding, expressed her concerns about the new changes.

“Broadly speaking we don’t like the new logo,” Mohammed said. “We don’t like that they’ve gotten rid of the Fletcher flag, the Fletcher orange. We hate the new seal they’ve developed because it has a lot of problematic symbolism.” 

Mohammed also noted that the new tagline, “Awakening Courage,” which has since been removed, was not well received. She expressed discontent with the school’s decision to add stock photos to the website rather than photos of students and alumni from Fletcher. 

“We didn’t go to Fletcher to awaken our courage,” she said. “We went there to learn. We already had courage.” 

Alfredo Ramirez, a first-year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy student at Fletcher, also created another petition opposing the changes. He said alumni have expressed concern over the rebranding.

“Fletcher is much more than a logo and SEO,” he wrote in an email to the Daily. “If the Administration is truly intentional about increasing the appeal and reach of Fletcher … it should consult with students and alumni about what made Fletcher so special to us in the first place.” 

Though there were informal focus groups and interviews conducted by the school’s administration in July and August to gauge the opinions of some students, many feel as though these were not held in an honest and transparent manner, according to Mohammed.

“[People in the focus groups] weren’t told why they were being interviewed … and a lot of the alumni who participated in these focus groups and interviews feel like they were very much misled,” Mohammed said.

Additionally, students and alumni have raised issues about the MGA degree.

“It’s targeted at part-time, more casual students,” Chris Ellison (F’12) said. “[The MGA is] something that causes us to look more like and have curricula more like schools which are behind us, not ahead of us.”

When Mohammed posted her petition on LinkedIn, she received hateful messages from Liz Musch, a member of the Board of Advisors at Fletcher. Musch threatened to report her to LinkedIn if the petition was not taken down by the end of the day. 

“She wrote publicly under the LinkedIn post with my petition and privately to me that I was an out-of-control terrorist who was out to destroy The Fletcher School,” Mohammed said. “And then I had until the end of the day to remove my petition, or she would report me to LinkedIn.” 

Screenshots of the LinkedIn exchange circulated among Fletcher students and faculty, according to Mohammed.

Rachel Kyte (F’02), dean of The Fletcher School, said that Musch offered her resignation from the Board of Advisors.

“The comments unmistakably violate so much of what we value at Fletcher including mutual respect, diplomacy, and cooperation, and we apologize for the harm this has caused our community,” she wrote in an email to the Daily. “We remain committed to ensuring that our community embraces and lives our commitment to these values in all that we do.”

Musch did not respond to the Daily’s request for comment. 

Because of community dissatisfaction with the rebranding, the school decided to include photos of Fletcher students and alumni on its website and removed all references to “awakening courage,” according to an email sent by Kyte to alumni on Nov. 21.

However, students continue to work with the administration to address remaining issues. 

“There are still ongoing discussions between students themselves and also with the administration about how best to move forward with these issues and discussions,” Ramirez said. 

According to Collins, the administration has paused its rebranding efforts and opened a comment section on the myFletcher intranet student portal in efforts to welcome community feedback and consider its options moving forward.

Collins recognized that the rebranding campaign did not have its intended effect.

“Despite the campaign’s good intentions, the changes were perceived as disregarding the school’s history and unintentionally discrediting past graduates,”  he said.