Alum creates second successful T-shirt campaign

by MaryJane Baker / Beacon Correspondent • February 4, 2016

Giving praise toward Emerson College might just land your face on a satirical screen-printed T-shirt of the school crest. At least, it did for Donald Trump.

Trump was in Las Vegas when he mentioned the school after seeing the statewide poll conducted by Emerson College Polling Society measuring the presidential candidates’ popularity in Iowa. It showed Trump leading the Republicans, prompting his remark: “Emerson College, very important, great college. Trump 33 percent, Cruz 23 percent. Nice! Nice! Wow.” 

Lane Brenner, 25, a class of 2013 Emerson alum who studied communication studies; Nick Reynolds, 23, a class of 2014 visual and media arts major; and Gabe Gibbs, 23, a class of 2014 performing arts major, said that they heard Trump boast about their alma mater and couldn’t help but have some fun with his reaction. 

“I texted Nick [Reynolds] that morning, since he is the T-shirt campaigning king,” Gibbs said. “Then, when we were video chatting and just thinking how this idea could even work, the signature Emerson shirt and logo popped into mind and we went with it.”

Reynolds was one of the creators of the Boston Strong T-shirt campaign that helped raise over $1 million for victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. 

They soon posted the link in the Emerson Mafia Facebook group so people could purchase shirts for $26, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Democratic National Committee, according to Brenner. The offer to purchase shirts ends Feb. 7, 2016. 

The gray shirt displays “Emerson College” in bold purple writing, with a picture of Donald Trump encircled by the quotes he used to describe the school, “Very important great college” scrolled above his head and “Nice nice wow” below. There are a variety of shirt styles to choose from, all featuring the same design.  

So far, they said, they’ve sold 82 shirts and raised $664, doubling their initial goal, as of Feb. 1.

Brenner said they weren’t out to offend anyone running—it was simply an opportunity to poke some fun at all the campaigning. 

“We just wanted to make a lighthearted joke on how presidential candidates say ridiculous things throughout their campaigns,” Brenner said. “It was not meant to be so political.” 

“We think it was funny to make a shirt and extra funny to throw money in the opposite direction of Trump,” Gibbs said. “It was only to make the joke larger than just the T-shirt.” 

Many components of Trump’s platform are on the other side of the spectrum than those of Emerson students. For example, Trump is opposed to gay marriage whereas Emerson College was rated the most LGBTQ-friendly college in the country byThe Princeton Review. 

“Donald Trump makes ridiculous comments on certain people and nationalities," Brenner said. "They are so opposite of the accepting atmosphere of Emerson, and so contrasting with the social issues Emerson stands for." 

Ashley Feldman, a sophomore marketing communication major, said that she thinks it’s great that alumni are still involved with campus culture.

 “I appreciate the joke, especially since Trump is not what comes to mind when I think of our culture on campus,” Feldman said. “One reason I bought the shirt was to support their creativity as well as the talk of politics on campus.”

 The shirt did create some controversy about supporting specific candidates, as seen on the Facebook post promoting the clothing. 

Comments included things like: “Not buying this. The DNC [Democratic National Committee] is a disgrace,” and “Why not donate to Boston area social services or something? ... Give the money to people who need it.”

For those that did purchase the shirt, like Bryn Schockett, a class of 2007 alumna, the joke was the main selling point.

"I don't find it offensive at all, in any capacity, because it is a political joke, funding a political party," Schockett said. "The idea of donation to charity, made by other group members, would have been amazing, although it would not have fit the political aspect of the joke." 

Brenner, Gibbs, and Reynolds all agreed that this T-shirt campaign was not meant to sway the voters of Emerson. It was meant to be harmless, and for them to share it with other students both past and present.

Gibbs said he knew the idea was not going to appeal to everyone, which is the nature of creativity.

“[We’re] not assuming all Emersonians are anti-Trump,” Gibbs said. “I do think it is funny how someone that is so opposite the Emerson MO [modus operandi] was giving it props.”