Names influence perception. There can be little doubt as to the impact that the name of a person, or a business, has on others. While it may seem to be a little outlandish, the truth is, names do matter.
And Baldwin-Wallace College, located in Berea just southwest of Cleveland, recognizes that reality. On 1 July, the name change will take place. Having worked as an Adjunct Faculty member at B-W in the early 1990s, this Examiner recalls hearing faculty and staff discuss the benefits of renaming back then. The breadth of degrees and the simply fact that there are several “colleges” at Baldwin-Wallace had already given it the “right” to be called a university. A university, after all, is an educational institution made up of colleges.
While discussion of a name change was personally observed over 20 years ago, the resistance appeared to be a concern of alienating alumni. Alumni, as universities are keenly aware, are vital in not only promoting the educational institution, but are an important source of donations and scholarship funding. Institutions of higher education would be loath to alienate such a vital asset.
The potential pitfalls are not limited to alumni who may hold dear their alma matter of “Baldwin-Wallace College”. Questions as to the institution’s name on conferred degrees and certificates need to be addressed. Likewise, academic transcripts, necessary for the pursuit of advanced degrees or transfer to another educational institution also need to be examined for changes needed.
There is also a cyber-logistical cost to a name change as well. Websites, for example, that link a potential student to the Yellow Jacket’s home page will need to be located and updated. Nonetheless, a cyber-benefit also has been suggested: making an internet search easier by eliminating the hyphen between Baldwin and Wallace.
As anyone who has ever moved and needed to update their address, or changed their cell phone number with a seemingly endless list of contacts to update have experienced, the task of changing “anything” can be quite daunting. Let’s face it – many times it is easier just to leave things alone when possible. Everything from business cards to letterheads to envelopes to billboards must now be changed.
Still, names have social meaning. Recently, an acquaintance of this Examiner had a baby and potential names were bandied about. “This sounds like a judge’s name” (a “good” thing), “that name sounds like she won’t be taken seriously” (a “bad” thing). Sociological research has been conducted on “foreign” sounding surnames and “black” names and the stereotypes or images that may accompany them. A politican may unknowingly be discriminated against because many people vote not by a candidate’s platform, but if they do not know who the candidates are, simply by their name. Comedians, actors and musicians may select their name to connote a particular image or to avoid a potentially problematic image.
Baldwin Wallace University wants everyone to know that there academic programs are broad and diverse as are expected to be found in a university. While the former name “College” may have a warm familiarity, academically speaking, it suggests limited offerings.
But before you get rid of your B-W College sweatshirt, think nostalgia! And one day, when B-W College memorabilia become a thing of the past, enjoy the uniqueness of having a piece of history.