Western State poll yields five name ideas

Two former favorites in the list of potential new names for then-Mesa State College have made a short list of possible new titles for Western State College of Colorado.

University of Western Colorado and Western Colorado University are among five potential new names for Western State listed in a public poll that will be on the college’s website through Jan. 20. Western State President Jay Helman said college administration will present results of the poll to Western State’s board of trustees during a meeting Feb. 10 and may pursue name-change legislation during the current session.

University of Western Colorado and Western Colorado University placed first and third, respectively, in a poll of 4,296 Mesa State alumni, students, staff and community members when the school was considering a name change last April. The name trustees selected, Colorado Mesa University, placed fourth in the poll.

Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster said he is disappointed Western is considering two names that were popular for his institution but that Western’s board of trustees asked Colorado Mesa not to use. Western’s trustees told Colorado Mesa last year they were worried potential students would be confused if then-Mesa State took on a name that had “Western” in its title. Foster said he also is worried about brand confusion if Western changes its name to something with “western Colorado” in the title.

“We’re the regional university. That’s what we are. When you take on a name that implies you’re a regional institution, it’s going to cause confusion,” Foster said.

Helman said Western State’s case for considering the same names Colorado Mesa turned down is different because “we’re not trying to use anybody else’s name.”

“We have not included ‘Mesa’ in any of our proposals,” he joked. “It’s pretty evident they do not want us to take certain names, but we’ve been Western for 89 years, and it’s important we maintain that.”

Helman said he wants to keep “western” in the name for posterity, include “Colorado” so people outside the state will know where the school is, and add “university” because he believes colleges are increasingly perceived by outsiders as two-year schools. He said the only word combination the college has ruled out so far is Western State University of Colorado because the acronym would be WSUC.

Western’s trustees may make a decision about which name they prefer or decide to scrap name-change plans during the Feb. 10 meeting, but Helman said he expects trustees to mull the poll results for a few weeks before making any decisions. He said the college talked to some legislators about carrying a bill that would finalize the name change, but no plans for a bill will be solidified until he gets direction from trustees, Helman said.

Foster said he invited Western’s trustees to come hear Colorado Mesa’s concerns about the possible name change at Colorado Mesa’s board of trustees meeting later this month in Denver. He said he wrote “a terse letter” to the trustees after he invited them and Helman to attend the university’s November trustee meeting and only Helman showed up.

“They chose not to come. I don’t know why. I don’t think our trustees are so mean,” Foster said, adding he’s still “optimistic” Western’s trustees will “pay attention to us.”

Helman said Colorado Mesa’s viewpoints matter, but it won’t be the deciding factor in choosing a potential new title for his school.

“We need to do what’s best for our college just as they did what was best for theirs,” Helman said.



COMMENTS

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My bet is that the glorified community college in Gunnison known as Western State College will become the University of Western Colorado, a name Mesa State could have and should have had notwithstanding the incompetence of their Board of Trustees. The gang from Gunnison ran a brilliant bluff and totally outflanked Tim Foster and crew, leaving our local institution of “higher?” learning with an inferior moniker - the consequences of which we will be living with for decades to come.

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