Playing the name game

If a Senate Bill to change the name of Southwest Texas State University to Texas State University at San Marcos is passed, the name of Sam Houston State University and other universities in the Texas State University System might also be changed.

Texas State Sen. Jeff Wentworth filed a bill with the Senate of Texas on March 6 at the request of Southwest Texas State University’s Associated Student Government. A press release from Wentworth’s office stated if Senate Bill 928 passes, it would be effective Sept. 1.

SHSU President James Gaertner said if the current bill begins to get serious consideration out of committee, then the Board of Regents in our Texas State University System would meet to discuss the possibility of not only changing the name of Southwest Texas State University, but also changing the names of other system schools.

“If that would pass the Board of Regents, we don’t know what form that would take, maybe it would pass that all (universities in the system) would change their name, maybe it would pass that only those who want to will change its name, so we don’t know what form that will take and we are really dealing in speculation,” Gaertner said. “Then there would be a proposed amendment to the bill in the way that the Regents voted and then that bill will be considered for law.”

Gaertner said he plans to survey various constituencies, since it would be hard to survey all the students, in order to gain feedback from them about the situation.

“It is my intention to survey the constituents of the university, the students, the faculty, the Alumni Association, the new staff council we formed to get their ideas on this, whether they support it or oppose it, and then I will convey that to the Board of Regents if it becomes relevant,” he said. “My guess is that there would be little or no support for it.”

Jason Plotkin, SHSU Student Government Association secretary, said the ASG from SWT went above the Board of Regents to Wentworth saying all their students wanted this name change. ASG passed a resolution stating they were for the name change because of particular reasons.

“Southwest Texas has been wanting to do this for a number of years- and if you look at their arguments they do not want to be a double directional school-Southwest Texas- it hurts them supposedly they say,” Plotkin said.

Lamar Urbanovsky, the chancellor of the Texas State University System stated if the bill gets passed through committee, to the floor of the Senate, the Board of Regents would have an emergency meeting where they would put together a friendly amendment to the bill stating that all schools in the system change their name to Texas State University System, Plotkin said.

“The chancellor (of the Board of Regents) feels that if one school changes to the name of the system we should all change, because all the other systems are uniformed,” he said.

Valerie Muehsam, chair of the Faculty Senate at SHSU said Gaertner asked leaders of the Alumni Association, the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association for their opinions on the name change, and how they thought it would be received if it happened.

“I can’t speak for everybody, but I can tell you what I believe. I have not heard anything positive about the name change,” Muehsam said. “We are very proud of our name and I think they feel regardless of whether Southwest Texas changes their name to Texas State University I don’t think it matters to (the faculty).”

There has been a lot of controversy stirring at Southwest Texas, from both students and alumni expressing their support or opposition for the name change.

“There are a lot of alumni from (SWT) who do not support the name change so there is opposition, and I feel like the faculty on (our) campus would not like to change the name,” Muehsam said. “I don’t think the students would support it and I am an alumni of SHSU and I don’t want them to change the name.”

“The name change in some ways takes away your individuality and we want to keep our individuality and we are proud of SHSU,” she said.

Although Muehsam’s conversations with faculty were mostly informal, she said she thought most would not want the name change.

Some of the arguments for the name change at SWT are geared to the prestige of the university. The arguments are listed on the Web site for SWT at

“There is a lot of controversy (in San Marcos) in terms of who actually supports it, but they have an active campaign about it,” Muehsam said.

“SWT is not taken seriously enough as an academic institution. A name like Texas State University moves us out of regionalism,” an argument for the name change noted.

This would be the fifth name change in SWT’s 104-year history, but it would be the most dramatic, since it would remove the “Southwest” designation.

“Southwest has been in the name of the school since its founding in 1899 as Southwest Texas State Normal School. The ‘Southwest Texas’ part has survived all the name changes,” an argument against the name change noted.

Plotkin said there is a chance that SHSU students could come back from summer vacation and be going to a different school and not even know it until classes resume in August.

The SGA also passed a bill against the name change of SWT and forwarded the bill to The Senate of the State of Texas, Gaertner, ASG and other media contacts stating that the SGA stands “adamantly opposed” to the change and urges the State Senate “to make every effort to vote down or table indefinitely any bill that would effect or aid a change of the name.”

The name change for SWT has been a continuous controversy, and it lost steam last year when the Texas State University System’s Board of Regents tabled the matter as it searched for a new president.

Campus signage is one of the most recent things passed and approved through the Board of Regents, and President Gaertner said if the name of SHSU was changed, the signage project for the university would still go on.

“It would not kill that project, if this did pass and it went though all the hoops we are saying it would have to go through, and there are about four different votes it would have to go through to get passed,” Gaertner said. “If that did happened it wouldn’t negate all the signage, of course the name of the university on the signs would have to be changed, and that would cost a little extra, but there would be a significant cost in total to universities to change everything.”

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