As of now, there is a lot of activity surrounding the name of our university and whether to keep its prefix of “UNC,” (which is a common abbreviation for UNC-Chapel Hill). In a March 13, 2019 Niner Times article by Megan Bird, she explained that a petition on change.org addressed to Chancellor Dubois for an alteration of the name of UNC Charlotte had garnered 2,484 signatures, and it currently sits at around 2,686 signatures. The Student Government Association has also put a survey on the March 26-27 ballots to gauge student opinion on this issue, and Chancellor Dubois expressed his position on the matter during his Chancellor’s Forum questioning.
With all this commotion about a potentially controversial subject amidst my peers, I decided to take to social media and do some unofficial polling. On Twitter, I asked for current students to tell me their take on this situation. I received many interesting responses, including one individual who responded with the hashtag: “#DropOurSlaveName.” This is a reprehensible take on the situation, and I am glad everyone else kept a level head during my inquiry.
One such sane person was Grace Frendrick, current UNC Charlotte student studying political science. She points out that many schools in the UNC System, including NC State University and Appalachian State University, do not have the UNC prefix. She went on to state, “I support dropping the UNC because as one of the top three largest schools in the state we need our own identity.”
Jonathan Bradshaw, UNC Charlotte class of 2003, currently works as a brand manager. He agrees with changing the name, stating that many schools without the prefix are recognizable statewide, such as NC State and East Carolina University. “I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me personally and to the school financially to own its own brand.”
A student involved in the athletic program gave me this statement so long as I kept them anonymous. They are involved with the athletic programs and are concerned about how the school is seen to those out of state. “I’ve heard from multiple out of state recruits that when they initially hear of us they thought we were some satellite school of Chapel Hill located in Charlotte. From an athlete’s perspective that can be really frustrating.”
Ross Smith, UNC Charlotte Alum also wanted to share his opinion on the matter. He runs the Agent49 account on Twitter, and is helping maintain the change.org petition. He believes that the name change should be carried out to ensure that credit is properly given. “I want the university to stand on its own, and not have any staff or student accomplishments be given to other organizations.” He has also stated that in the working world, people do not recognize the school, “I’ve been asked if I was a Tarheels fan.”
However, not everyone who voiced their opinion supported a potential change. Wren Aubrey Latham, theatre major, believes that this debate is centered around “misplaced anger.” Wren is befuddled at the fact that, in such a turbulent time as this, naming disputes seem to permeate to the surface of discussion. “We could be using our privilege and outrage to rally behind real victims of sexual assault, racism, and bigotry en masse, but we’re doing this.”
Corey Smith, UNC Charlotte class of 2017, works for WTAP in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He believes the school is relatively new on the national scene and “…people are just now finally recognizing who we are outside of the region. Would just cause more confusion if we change the name.”
I believe that both sides in this debate have presented quite valid evidence for their sides. A name change would require an extraordinary amount of resources, and would be confusing in the early period of transition. Still, a new identity separate from any other institution will only help us in academic recognition, athletic recruitment and an increased value of our degrees. I am in favor of the name change, with the caveat that those who are actively supporting the change need to take more initiative in convincing others of this cause. In addition, they need to create a concrete plan for the transition as this burden might be too much to bear for the administration. Bringing a worthwhile plan might ease concerns, and create goodwill. If it is truly beneficial to the University, then you should be able to convince those who would oppose the change. This isn’t the most pertinent issue in these times, but since this institution will stand the test of time long after we are gone, providing an independent identity for our great institution would be a boon for now and in perpetuity.