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Post-mortem on UH-Downtown name change

It’s safe to say that UH-Downtown will remain UH-Downtown for at least two more years, since there’s no time to get a name change bill through the Lege at this point. The Chron takes a look at how the attempt to change it this year went down the tubes.

One possibility, Houston Metropolitan University, was rejected by faculty as too cheesy. Another, University of South Texas, prompted a letter warning of possible trademark infringement from South Texas College of Law President James Alfini.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board. The school is soliciting proposals from companies to suggest new names.

Maybe that will have a better outcome. It seems clear to me that a lack of trust about the process, as well as a belief that UH-D doesn’t get the respect it deserves from the rest of the UH system were the main factors. If this is going to be pursued further, a process that involves students, faculty, and alumni will be essential to getting any kind of buy-in. I don’t know if they need to do this or not, but they do need to get everyone on the same page.

Video report from UH-Downtown renaming meeting

Con Frijoles has a video clip of his testimony last Friday before the UH-Downtown Board of Regents concerning the name change saga. I just want to add that while I think Houston Metropolitan University is a perfectly decent name despite the understandable concerns some folks have, I also think there’s nothing wrong with “UH-Downtown”. Given all the pushback the Board has gotten, it seems to me the best option at this point is to regroup, get consensus and buy-in from the community, and try again (if necessary) in 2011. I think the odds of a successful outcome for this session are rapidly dwindling.

The ongoing UH-Downtown renaming saga

Still going nowhere fast.

University of Houston System regents Friday decided to wait for more suggestions before choosing a new moniker for UH-Downtown, concerned that “South Texas” made no reference to the city and overlaps with South Texas College of Law. They said the process, which came up with the suggested name in about a month, had been rushed.

“UH-Downtown has great programs, deans, professors and graduates,” said Welcome W. Wilson Sr., chairman of the board. “It doesn’t have an identity. It is an invisible university. However, maybe the time frame is a bit short. It could be that four weeks (was) not enough.”

Regents voted in December to change the name of UH-Downtown to increase recognition and distinguish it from the University of Houston’s largest campus. But coming up with a new name is a ticklish matter, guaranteed to offend some, including those who believe no change is needed.

“We can vet some more names, but we are never going to get a consensus,” UH-Downtown President Max Castillo said after the meeting. “Any change is going to get dialogue, contention and debate. I think we’ve done our due diligence in bringing this (name) forth.”

Well, that’s one way of putting it. The good news for those who don’t like any of the names they’ve contemplated, or who think they shouldn’t have bothered in the first place – there’s a Facebook group for you if that’s the case – is that it seems unlikely they’ll be able to get their act together in time to get a bill written, sponsored, and passed by the Lege; certainly, not having a strong consensus won’t help those efforts, either. So if you like things as they are, or at least prefer them to what they could be, you’re probably in good shape till 2011.

A special university committee solicited faculty, student and public input before recommending University of South Texas. It sent out surveys, conducted focus groups and considered scores of names, including some that sounded like a bank (Fidelity State University), a charter school (Challenger State University), a Soviet institution (People’s State University) and a very distant outpost (Houston Lunar University).

Some regents said the name simply did not appeal to them . Others thought the similarity to South Texas College of Law — or even Texas Southern University — could present problems.

I’m telling you – Houston Metropolitan University is where it’s at. The Chron is with me. Your move, Regents.

UPDATE: Sandra was at the meeting on Friday, and provides a report. She does not like “Houston Metropolitan University”. Mean Green Cougar Red, who thinks HMU isn’t so bad, and Stace, who prefers “University of South Texas”, have more.

UH-Downtown to move ahead with name change

They still don’t know what they want to be called, however.

School leaders are going ahead with plans to rename the University of Houston-Downtown, despite opposition from students, alumni and some faculty members.

“If it has its own distinctive name, it can move forward (and) be known,” said Welcome Wilson Sr., chairman of the board that governs UH-Downtown and other schools in the UH system.

He and university president Max Castillo said Tuesday they believe the benefits of a new name would outweigh the disapproval of those who don’t want it to change.

Any new name would have to be approved by the Legislature, and Castillo said a new name could be in place by fall. He and Wilson met with the Chronicle editorial board Tuesday to explain their reasoning.

Regents voted last month to support the change but stopped short of recommending the name Castillo proposed: Houston Metropolitan University.

That’s still under consideration, however, along with University of South Texas, University of Southeast Texas, Gulf Coast State University and other options. Faculty, staff and students will vote on their top five choices; the vote ends Tuesday.

Regents will select a new name in February.

Michelle Moosally, an associate professor of English and president of the faculty Senate, said it’s been hard to gauge reaction, partially because classes just resumed after the holiday break.

Some people don’t want the name changed, she said. Others support a change, but don’t like any of the proposed names. And some feel rushed into making a decision.

Castillo acknowledged that the idea is not universally popular. “Right now, I’m the kiss of death on campus,” he said.

Hey, I liked Houston Metropolitan University, even if the regents didn’t. While it would probably be better to build a stronger consensus for whatever new name they choose, the fact is that the Lege is only in session for so long, and the more time you have to shepherd a bill through the process, the better your odds of success are. Frankly, I won’t be surprised if they don’t get a bill through and have to wait till 2011 to get this done. There’s also now some organized opposition to this – I got notice of a Facebook group called UH-D Community Standing Together, with the description “As students, graduates, faculty, staff & friends, we say NO to the name change.” I don’t really have a preference as to whether they go forward with this or not, I just wish them all luck in figuring it out, whatever happens.