Towson State's name game Second-rate?: With a new title, maybe folks will think it's a private university.

April 20, 1996

THE CURRENT flurry of interest in name changes at Maryland state universities and colleges is fueled more by marketing desires than any concern with academics. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," rhapsodized Shakespeare. Sweeter is how some Maryland college presidents see it.

There's no problem with the current names of our public campuses. Their monikers do precisely what they should -- accurately describe these schools to the public. Look at Towson State University: It is located in Towson; it is a state institution, and it is a degree-granting university. Direct and uncomplicated. But that's not good enough in this era of high-powered marketing.

All this comes about because the General Assembly requested a report on name changes. One educator said new names are needed to minimize confusion or achieve greater clarity.

The last we checked, Towson State wasn't being confused with any other school. The title tells us exactly what it and where it is. But President Hoke Smith feels the word state suggests "second rank." He prefers Towson University.

How quaint. Why it's almost enough to fool folks from outside the region into thinking Towson U. is a private institution.

Dr. Smith claims the school would have more success fund-raising under a private-sounding name because "people assume private is better." Such reasoning is not only flawed but deceptive. Potential donors won't be amused.

A large number of out-of-state students from middle-income families choose Towson State University because the school has a reputation for quality -- and a price tag which is affordable. Like many Marylanders, they seek out state, not private, schools.

So far, other state campuses aren't jumping on this hokey bandwagon. Frostburg State President Catherine R. Gira has no desire to alter the school's name. "Frankly, there are institutions like N.C. State. . . and Ohio State that are wonderful institutions," she said.

Baltimore County Councilman Doug Riley said TU sounded "world class." But there is a huge difference between sounding world class and being world class. Towson State should not pretend to be something it surely is not -- and never will be.

Pub Date: 4/20/96

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