Name dispute deepens
The University of Houston-Downtown’s deadline for changing its name was extended when the UH System Board of Regents voted to indefinitely delay the name change at a special session Friday.
The new name was originally to be submitted to the board by Jan. 30 and forwarded to the state legislature, but UHD officials now have as much time as they need to come up with a suitable name after Chairman of the Board Welcome Wilson’s motion to delay was passed.
‘Today, it’s not about a name-change issue; it’s about a name selection,’ board member Lynden Rose said.’ ‘The name change issue has already been voted on.’
Still, several in a packed house of students and faculty from both UH and UHD came with testimonies as to why the name should or should not be changed.
Michelle Moosally, president of the UHD Faculty Senate, presented the results of an unofficial survey of more than 40 colleagues (approximately 16 percent of the total faculty), which represented the views of employees from across all UHD colleges.
‘The faculty has not felt confident that their input has adequately been addressed,’ Moosally said.’ ‘The majority of the faculty is open to a change, but didn’t believe it should happen now. The issues revolve around the process, cost and current name options.’
Moosally and other members of the Faculty Senate said they are mostly concerned the cost of the name change could come from resources that have already been set aside for their work.’
Also, the exclusion of names with ‘Houston’ in them ‘represents an inexplicable distancing of UHD from other universities in the UH System,’ Moosally said.
Jaime Puente, treasurer of the UHD Student Government Association, spoke out against the name change.
‘The haste by which (the decision process) has been conducted is uncalled for,’ Puente said. ‘It has not been conducted in a way that favors those who have the most to lose from the extreme waste of money and resources.’
Like Moosally, Puente felt that the decision process should have been extended, as the time frame was too short.’ He also said that students had not been properly made aware of the decision and their choices.’
‘We, as a community, have a lot to be proud of,’ Puente said.’ ‘We, as a student body, are proud to be associated with UHD, and our identity should not be for sale.’
Richard Nguyen, an alumni of UH’s Bauer College of Business, was in favor of the name change and said some UHD students had ulterior motives when it came to resisting the change.
‘A lot people I’ve met have said, ‘Oh, I attended or graduated from UH’ only to later find out that they graduated from UHD,’ Nguyen said.’
Nguyen also said his findings support the study conducted for the university by Richard/Carlberg, a local marketing agency, which shows students who attend UHD value the confusion and use it to their benefit. It ‘allows them to associate themselves with a university they don’t actually attend,’ the study said.
‘I also know others, including my former co-worker, who have put UH on their resume and job applications and not UHD,’ Nguyen said.
The Regents themselves were divided on the issue.
‘The consultants said the process was flawed, and we undermine the entire reason to have consultants in the first place,’ System Regent Dennis Golden said. ‘In the future, if we decide to spend thousands of dollars on consultants and then not adhere to the advice they give, I’m not sure if I could support hiring these outside consults.’
Golden also said the decision to change the name came too quickly.
‘I don’t feel obligated to support this because the process wasn’t gone about properly,’ he said. ‘It’s been rushed, and there isn’t a consensus at a time when we need to go to the legislature and be united. This is little stuff we could take care of at some other time once we acquire the goals of becoming Tier I.’
Rose said he also had some doubts about the change.
‘If we decide to select a different name, we’re going to be spending a lot more time on damage control than marketing and branding,’ he said. ‘Marketing and branding will help us to roll out, but are we rolling out or controlling damage?’
Rose had further concerns.
‘You have to develop a change to be better, not to just be different,’ he said.’ ‘Do you have a plan to be better?’
Board members looked to UHD President Max Castillo for clarification.
‘It’s become a very emotional issue,’ Castillo said. ‘We expected that as part of the process, but I feel the process has been done in a way that is very open and very transparent despite a great deal of difference of opinions.”
Regent Carroll Robertson Ray emphasized the Board’s unity despite the members’ difference of opinion.
‘We, as a board, support the board’s decision,’ Ray said. ‘There are times that I will vote against a resolution and it passes, but once it passes, my job as a board member is to support it.’
Another concern addressed was that one of the proposed names, The University of South Texas, was too similar to The South Texas College of Law.
Regent Mica Mosbacher shared this concern, but also had other questions.
‘What percentage opposes the change in the name to the University of South Texas?’
Mosbacher said. ‘I’m having trouble (understanding) if this is a vocal minority, or if it represents a majority.’
In response, Castillo presented the numbers from polls and various focus groups.
‘Between the pros and cons, the name that surfaced to the top was The University of South Texas,’ Castillo said. ‘That name had 1,423 people who saw that as the most important name to bring forward. Five hundred and forty-two voted for The University of Southeast Texas, and then the numbers drop off.’
Golden said that Castillo’s motives and practices in his efforts to pass the name change were less transparent than he would have others believe.
‘You put forth the effort and hard work and were ready to present the proposal to the Board of Regents,’ Golden said. ‘But two weeks before you were to (present), you had a few Bauer alumni who went over to the chancellor to pitch a bitch to get (the name change) off the agenda, and that’s not right.’ That’s part of the reason why we’re here today. (Castillo) got the rug jerked out from under him. You have to understand the institutional history of what took place in the past to explain why I feel the way I feel.’
Castillo said the name-change initiative had been on the forefront of his agenda throughout his 17-year tenure at UHD.
Wilson brought the meeting to a close with his motion to delay the name change.
UH President and Chancellor of UH System Renu Khator offered some closing remarks on the issue.
‘Every single member of UH System is equally precious,’ she said. ‘Never think that this campus would ever leave the UH family. When President Castillo came to me and said he wanted an independent identity within the UH System, those two words – ‘independent’ and ‘within’ – were absolutely nonnegotiable then and they are nonnegotiable today.’