Monday, July 05, 2004

The name game 

I hate it when colleges try to call themselves universities to indicate some greater mission. My graduate degrees are from Claremont Graduate School, which became Claremont Graduate University after I left there in 1986 without really changing anything in program mission. There is at least a little more acceptale for state schools that have histories as undergraduate institutions (like St. Cloud Normal School, now my employer SCSU) that become much more than a teachers college. For about ten years now there has been campus debate over our name, with the option of becoming Minnesota State University -St. Cloud. Moorhead and Mankato have already done so. One of my problems is simply pronouncing it without slipping. It's pretty damned long. And I would still have to explain where St. Cloud is.

So I read with interest that a small, formerly all-female state school in Virginia has changed its name from Mary Washington College to The University of Mary Washington. The level of banality is jawdropping:
But the name triggered yet another debate -- this time about syntax. Some faculty insisted that the construction "University of . . ." should precede only a geographic location, not a person. State Sen. R. Edward Houck (D-Spotsylvania) argued against the name change on syntactical grounds before the Virginia legislature. (It ultimately passed.)

"I think the name is awkward," Houck said last week. "And it certainly diminishes Mary. . . . I haven't found anyone other than those who were paid to say it who felt that this was the most appropriate name."

Wilder, though, said he did not believe there is anything "technically incorrect" about the name. "It is unusual," he said. "One of the reasons I preferred it is because it was unusual."

In fact, Wilder said Mary Washington could see a rise in the number of applications this year because of the attention drawn by the name change and the luster of its new status as a university.
If anyone, anyone, is now thinking of applying to Mary Washington because it's a university now and not a college, I'll sing the Wellstone song on the air next weekend. Puh-leeze. And the university's college's website breathlessly proclaims:
Mary Washington College officially became the University of Mary Washington today. To celebrate the new name, the institution held a flag-raising ceremony, complete with punch and cake for campus employees.

�This is a grand day, not only for our institution, but for the entire greater Fredericksburg region and the Commonwealth of Virginia ,� said President William M. Anderson, Jr. �I'd like to thank everybody for working so hard to make this day possible. We enter this era with great confidence, knowing that our past has brought us to this point, where we can become not just another university but a great university.�
Nothing celebrates quite like punch and cake, eh? No word on ice cream.