Name game: Everyone's playing Serious business: Ego, tradition and turf wars all play a part in the game of name changes so popular among colleges and universities.

The Education Beat

April 10, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

A BUNCH of Maryland colleges and universities don't like their names.

Towson State University President Hoke L. Smith wants to drop the "State" from his school's name. It "means second rank," says Dr. Smith.

Allegany Community College doesn't like "Community." It is said to confuse prospective students in neighboring states.

The University of Maryland Baltimore County wants a new name. The acronym "UMBC" -- pronounced UMbeck -- is ugly. Moreover, UMBC keeps getting confused with the other University of Maryland campuses, a confusion that rankles UMBC professors and partisans. Then there's "Baltimore County," which some say makes UMBC sound like a community college.

College Park doesn't like its name, either. No, that's not quite accurate. Some top officials at College Park want their school to be the only "University of Maryland," thus ending its name confusion with UMBC, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University College and the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Speaking of UMAB, it doesn't like its name, either. The University of Maryland School of Law is part of UMAB (although graduates won't find UMAB on their diplomas), but it is not confined to Baltimore and would like to be known as "the" state law school. Moreover, UMAB is often confused with the University of Baltimore (a part of the same university system), which has its own law school 10 blocks away.

University College, the worldwide degree-granting unit of the University of Maryland, similarly isn't thrilled with its appellation. When every Podunk college in America has been elevated to university status -- or so it seems -- who ever heard of a "University College"?

And even the University of Maryland System, the 11-campus conglomeration created by merging the old state colleges and University of Maryland campuses in 1988, wants a new name, a name that would distinguish the system from any of its parts. Something like the Maryland University System.

It's tempting to joke that in Maryland higher education, a rose by any other name smells sweeter. Ego, tradition, emotion and a lot of past squabbling over turf are wrapped up in the name game. But many people take the game seriously.

"I hope any change is seriously thought out and that it's change for the better, not for the sake of changing," said John Lippincott, associate vice chancellor for advancement for the University of Maryland System.

Mr. Lippincott noted that a General Assembly committee in the just-concluded session inserted language in a budget bill calling for "continued exploration of name changes to sharpen the separate identities" of three university units.

There are schools comfortable with their names, apparently because they are comfortable with their missions. Coppin State College, for example, has not sought to become a university, and St. Mary's College of Maryland looks and acts like the small liberal arts college it is.

As Maryland officials consider name changes, there are lessons from elsewhere.

The University of Rochester hired a consultant to study a name change for the New York institution. But when word leaked that the experts were thinking of dropping "Rochester" because it allegedly had an unsophisticated aura, city fathers and mothers rebelled. When the consultant eventually recommended "Rochester University," university officials decided University of Rochester wasn't so bad after all.

Indiana confronted a nomenclature problem some years ago when it established a new public campus in Indianapolis. The state's two existing public giants -- Indiana University in Bloomington and Purdue University in West Lafayette -- wanted to be included in the new campus' name. So the school was named Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. Slides off the tongue like honey.

Not only is the name unwieldy, but nearly everyone in the Hoosier state calls IUPUI "OOey-POOey." And when the state added Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, citizens quickly dubbed it "OOey-POOey-FOOey."

The lesson is that you've got to watch those acronyms. UMBC officials, for example, considered a change to "Maryland Institute of Science and Technology" until a German professor pointed out that MIST means "dung" in German. There are more scatological and obscene examples, one of which has made a laughingstock of a new public university on Florida's west coast.

If Towson State is allowed to drop its middle name, it will be TSU's fifth appellation since its founding in 1866 as the State Normal School. Towson jettisoned "Normal" in 1935, when it became the State Teachers College at Towson. "Teachers" was dropped in 1963 and "College" changed to "University" in 1976.

What's next? Will "Towson" become a liability? Perhaps the school should heed comedian Steve Allen's advice. Years ago he suggested down-home names for colleges and universities -- comfortable names, the kind you'd see on small-town restaurants or in Lake Wobegon: Hoke's College: Good Teachin'.

Engineering most lucrative field among educators

Teaching in higher education differs in one important way from teaching in elementary-secondary education: Some academic fields are more lucrative than others.

The Chronicle of Higher Education's annual list of faculty salaries shows that engineering professors earn more than anyone else, about $60,000 a year on average nationwide. Library science professors and teacher educators are at the bottom, earning about $40,000.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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