Colorado Mesa owns domain names that Western State might want

There are already websites associated with some of Western State College’s top choices for a potential new name. And those sites belong to Colorado Mesa University.

Though Colorado Mesa’s main website is coloradomesa.edu, it purchased 48 domain names containing variations of “Colorado Mesa” or “western Colorado” between May 26 and Dec. 12. Colorado Mesa Executive Director of Marketing and Recruitment Rick Taggart said the school’s marketing department purchased those domains to prevent other people from buying them and putting undesirable content on those sites. The sites cost $26 to $27 on average, according to Colorado Mesa spokeswoman Dana Nunn, and ranged from a low of $6.95 per name to $130 for the name cmu.tv.

“Their cost is minor compared to the cost of legal issues,” Taggart said.

The purchases began around the time the university paid $3,000 to then-Colorado Mesa senior Justin Kolenc for the rights to domain names coloradomesauniversity.net, coloradomesauniversity.info and coloradomesauniversity.org. Kolenc purchased the domain names soon after then-Mesa State College trustees voted last April to change the school’s name to Colorado Mesa University.

Eighteen of the names purchased by Colorado Mesa contain the phrase “universityofwesterncolorado,” “universityofwesternco” or “westerncoloradouniversity,” all purchased on Oct. 6 or 7, less than a week before Western State’s president, Jay Helman, told The Daily Sentinel the school was considering its own name change. A poll posted this winter on Western State’s website asked participants to select a favorite new moniker for Western State. Two of the choices were University of Western Colorado and Western Colorado University, which Colorado Mesa’s trustees had considered in April after those names placed first and third, respectively, in a Colorado Mesa-issued poll of students, staff and community members.

Taggart said the western Colorado domains were purchased so people searching for Western Colorado Community College, which is part of the Colorado Mesa system, or a university in western Colorado would most likely find one of the Colorado Mesa-owned sites. Most of those sites feature a simple list of Grand Junction- and higher-education-related links or direct people to coloradomesa.edu. To cover their bases, the university also bought some domain names with the terms “cmu,” “cmumavericks,” “coloradomesaonline,” “cmusucks,” coloradomesasucks,” and “coloradomesauniversitysucks.”

Taggart and Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster said the university would gift one of the three western Colorado-centric names to Western State if the college eventually chooses a corresponding school and domain name with .edu at the end of it.

“The strategy is not to make their lives difficult,” Taggart said of Western State.

“We don’t want any domain name that’s identical to theirs,” Foster said.

Foster said the university bought the domain names as “a business decision” because western Colorado is part of the school’s marketing strategy.

Helman had not heard about the domain-name purchases until informed by a reporter Friday. He said he is not surprised Colorado Mesa bought the names and does not doubt the university will make one a gift to Western State if necessary.

“It’s actually smart,” Helman said of the domain-name purchases.

Helman said relations between the school presidents have improved since Helman and Western State Trustee Todd Wheeler visited a Colorado Mesa trustees meeting Jan. 25–26. Foster said he told Helman and Wheeler he would be fine with the Gunnison school becoming Colorado Western State University but he would be uncomfortable with the title Western Colorado University because Colorado Mesa markets itself as a western Colorado institution as well.

Foster said he thinks some good came out of the meeting.

“Anytime you have discussion going on, are at least talking, I think that’s positive,” he said.

Western State’s trustees had asked Colorado Mesa not to put western Colorado in its name when the Grand Junction school was considering its name change for fear of having two Colorado institutions with western in the name would confuse potential students.

Helman said he came away from the recent trustee meeting with a better understanding of why Colorado Mesa officials are concerned about Western State taking on a Western Colorado name.

“I kept hearing there was a possibility of brand confusion, which I wasn’t getting,” Helman said. “Once they said they were worried about a title that suggests there’s only one university on the Western Slope,” though, he understood.

Helman said he also told Colorado Mesa trustees he feels boxed in with the name change because a Western State University already exists in California, and there is a University of Western States in Oregon. He said he will discuss ways to select a name that does not imply Western is the only western Colorado institution of higher learning at Western State’s trustees meeting Friday.


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