What’s In a Name?

Dave Hargis
South Coloradan

Names are strange linguistic creatures, often neutral and specific, sometimes polarizing and odd. These occasionally quirky proper nouns are everywhere, of course. They are so common in our daily lives that we often use them without a second thought, until we consider changing them. Then things can begin to get a little complicated. How important are names? Are they just words, or do they actually mean something? These are questions each of us must decide for ourselves. There are, however, other questions that we can decide together.

Recently, name changes have become a growing topic of discussion on campus, the foremost being the name of the campus itself, which is currently studying the possibility of changing from Adams State College to Adams State University. Then we have this very paper, currently sporting the enigmatic “?” on its masthead. Both efforts pose worthy questions, and both the campus administration and this paper’s management have offered all of us the chance to voice our opinions on the matter. These are opportunities I hope everyone on campus will take the time and effort to embrace.

College or University?

For me, the question of a campus name change is a tricky one.  I find myself still undecided. As I understand it, the decision to take on the University name is largely based in better marketing opportunities, and an expressed desire to define ourselves more closely with the programs our institution offers. Basically, it’s a business move.

The decision seems sound enough. Take on a more prestigious title, increase your marketing into areas where that name holds more value and it should easily translate into greater enrollment, equaling greater revenue. But with enrollment currently at record numbers, one has to ask, can we really take on more students and not lose the unique character that seems to make us an attractive educational choice?

While the University name holds a large prestige factor, it also brings with it implied messages of a more robust campus, research facilities, and PhD programs. Is that who we are? I think not. Is that where we’re going? Maybe. But the really important questions may be, what kind of campus do we really want to be? Will becoming a university in name as well as fact change that or help it happen?

Do we excel as a small, unique college with diverse, continually growing programs that far exceed our name (think Dartmouth or William & Mary)? Or, do we “trade up” and become another university (there have been over a hundred who changed their name in the last decade) that battles for market share in an ever-growing pool of varied institutions who all carry the same basic title. Is the substance and character of who we are in the title of University or in the name and spirit of Adams State?

Whatever your opinion may be, I encourage you to let your voice be heard by posting on the college’s name change blog located at blogs.adams.edu/university/, or by responding in your own commentary to the paper. Our feedback is vital in helping the administration make the right choice for our campus.

The Paper “?”

As evidenced by the question mark on page one, our campus newspaper needs a new name. Unlike the campus, which has a name to fall back on, the paper has decided the old name has to go. I applaud the aggressiveness of the decision. I only hope we, the Adams State campus community, are up to the task of coming up with a name that represents our voice and spirit.

With a new Editor comes a new direction and a new attitude. Lance seems to be asking all the right questions: what name do we want? What’s important to us? Essentially, what kind of paper do we want it to be? The name is really just the beginning.

In many respects, the paper is the voice of our community. Buried within its eight to sixteen pages we should find the things that matter to us. Any student, faculty or staff member can submit articles, make suggestions, address content or express concerns. It speaks as passively, or aggressively, as we do. The paper’s challenge to us is to step up and be an active part of that voice.

This is our chance to own it! Make it ours! We can set the stage for years of dynamic news, commentary, features, sports and entertainment that will let everyone know we’re here and we have a strong voice that is ready and willing to expresses our convictions and character. We only need to let the editor and staff of the paper know our wants, expectations, and needs to make it happen.

It would seem that names are more than just words. They express, in an instant, who and what we are. They hold years, if not decades, of history. They reflect our character. They are the sum at the end of the equation of identity. We could not find our way without them, and changing them should never be an easy decision. Put some thought into it. Take ten minutes out of class to discuss it. We’re talking about our community, our campus, our paper, and they all need our attention to make them stronger, better parts of our lives.

Let your voice be heard.

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