Texas lawmakers — again — are working on renaming the big state university in San Marcos. This is happening because the university — again — wants its name changed.
Under Dripping Springs Rep. Jason Isaac’s House Bill 2238, the new name would be Outlet Mall State University.
Wait, can that be right? No, my mistake. The new name actually would be “Texas State University.”
“Hey Herman, you dork,” I hear you saying disrespectfully, “the big state university in San Marcos already is named Texas State University.”
That’s what you think, and that’s what the T-shirts say. But there actually is no Texas State University, other than the fictional home of the Fightin’ Armadillos in the forgettable 1991 film “Necessary Roughness.”
The San Marcos university’s official name, approved in 2003 in a legislative upgrade from Southwest Texas State University, is Texas State University-San Marcos. Now, school officials — who, save for legal documents, already refer to it as Texas State University — want to knock off the “San Marcos” part.
Brian McCall, chancellor of the Texas State University System of which Texas State is a member, said the name change is needed because of confusion caused by the fact that the school now has a Round Rock campus. Isaac told a House committee that means there is a campus named Texas State University-San Marcos Round Rock. (San Marcos Round Rock? That outlet mall name is sounding better. It could be a natural progression for students who attend the new Austin Community College at Highland Mall.)
The San Marcos school was authorized by the Legislature in 1899 as Southwest Texas State Normal School. This was to contrast it from Texas State Abnormal School, whose name later was changed to A&M to make it easier for Aggies to spell. (Little-known fact: When it was Texas State Abnormal School, its students were called Abbies.)
Texas State University-San Marcos offers this review of its name changes: “Over the years, the Legislature broadened the institution’s scope and changed its name, in succession, to Normal College, Teachers College, College, University and in 2003 to Texas State University-San Marcos.” The changes tracked the school’s evolution. Now, with more 34,000 students, it’s Texas’ fifth-largest state university.
The biggest name change came in 2003 when lawmakers knocked “Southwest” from the title and ended the stigma of having a direction (two directions, actually) in the name. Directional schools get less respect and low March Madness seedings.
There also was the fact that Southwest Texas State University was not in Southwest Texas, which made it one of many schools not where they’re supposed to be. The University of Miami is not in Miami. The University of South Florida is not in South Florida. The University of Dallas is not in Dallas. And the University of Texas at Dallas is not at Dallas.
Isaac’s bill, now pending in committee, mandates that the name change in San Marcos be done “with as little unnecessary cost as possible” and directs the school “to the maximum extent practicable, use all stationery and other consumable supplies that are printed with the institution’s former name.” The bill’s fiscal note says “the university does not plan on replacing any signage and instead would remove the letters ‘San Marcos’ if applicable.”
As with many solutions, this one could lead to another problem. As Texas State University, the school will be an institution without an acronym. I doubt it will start using TSU, an acronym long used by and associated with Texas Southern University.
On Sunday, on the front of the Insight section, we’ll continue our discussion of pressing issues in higher education with my review of a Central Texas university’s Interstate 35 billboard. See you there.