Western showdown: Name flap erupts

Renaming Mesa State College anything with “western” in the title would be akin to identity theft, according to one member of Western State College’s board of trustees.

Trustees at the Gunnison-based college adopted a resolution March 18 opposing any Colorado college, including Mesa State, using the terms “western” or “west” in their name.

Mesa State’s board of trustees will consider a new name during a meeting April 26. The new name has not been decided, but six potential names for the school include west or western.

The possibility of Mesa State taking any of those six names has upset Western State students, staff and alumni, according to Sandra Mark of Gunnison, vice chairwoman of Western’s board of trustees. Mark said she is concerned her alma mater will lose some of its ability to recruit out-of-state students, who pay more tuition, if students outside Colorado confuse Western State with Mesa State’s new name. Mesa State has listed recruitment in other states, where recognition that Mesa State is in Colorado is as low as 2 percent in Texas and 8 percent in California, as a reason for changing its name.

“It’s an important part of our finances” to have out-of-state students, Mark said. “I wish the Mesa State board was more proud of their name and would advertise it better rather than steal ours.”

Mesa State President Tim Foster said having one word in common, western, won’t lead to brand confusion. If it did, Foster said Mesa State would get the raw end of the deal.

“The minute someone sees the temperature (in Gunnison) is minus-20 degrees, it looks worse for us than them,” he said.

Western State’s board of trustees adopted the resolution months after Foster first informed the college Mesa State may be changing its name. Mark said the board was fine with Mesa State adding university to its name, but the idea of any name with “western” in it “didn’t ride too well with the board,” she said.

Mark said there’s not much Western can do about Mesa State’s potential name change, other than “rely on their good faith” that Mesa’s board of trustees will pay attention to the resolution.

Foster said the selection of a new name will come down to “what’s best for Mesa State.”

“They’ve been overreacting for a long time,” he said of Western State.


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