Within the next few weeks the University of Houston-Clear Lake's student newspaper will get a new name for the first time in its 30-year history. Editors and staff of the newspaper publication class, with the approval of faculty adviser Taleen Washington, made the decision after weeks of deliberation.
A new name will not be selected until the staff has had a chance to collect additional feedback from the UHCL community, but the students who produce the paper want a name that is representative of the field of journalism.
"I've been here almost five years," Washington said. "Every semester staff members of the newspaper have approached me about changing its name. This year, I felt like I had been here long enough to lend them my support because 1) my own credibility as the newspaper's adviser is better established now, 2) I can testify that this is not the fluke request of one group of students, but rather an ongoing request from students who work on the student newspaper, 3) the students did their research and made their case, and 4) the editors and staff were willing to fight for the name change even though they knew it might not take place in time for them to take advantage of it."
The student staff want to change the name of the paper for several reasons:
• The majority of students feel the name is not representative of serious news and that the name is detrimental to the students' credibility as journalists.
• It tends to be a tongue-twister, and is frequently mispronounced, misspelled and misunderstood.
• The reaction from many readers, advertisers and interviewees is that it sounds like a venereal disease and that its pronunciation reminds them of a female sex organ.
• Ad revenue is a very important element in keeping this publication alive, and advertisers often question the name before placing ads.
• The paper is produced by students majoring in communication who are enrolled in the newspaper publication class. Work from the paper goes into the students' portfolio and is presented to future employers.
The current name, UHCLIDIAN, was the result of a "name that paper" contest won by Gene Goodhard, a former student majoring in management. The name is a homonym for Euclidian - a word play using the name of the famous Greek mathematician Euclid and the university's acronym, UHCL.
The editors and staff feel that UHCLIDIAN was clever and original in its dawning days because the campus community was much smaller 30 years ago and everyone automatically knew the name's history and correct pronunciation. Today the paper reaches far beyond the physical boundaries of the university with its extended coverage of non-campus, student issues and its online presence.
"I understand that it's standard to identify the school in the name of most campus publications," said Sarah Milstead, a former editor of the UHCLIDIAN. "However, our name made it really awkward when approaching anyone off-campus for an interview. I always had the same initial conversation take place. I'd identify myself and my reasons for contacting the person, and invariably they would ask me to repeat the publication name and to spell it and then ask how we'd come up with it."
In order to examine the UHCL community's perception of the name UHCLIDIAN, a random campus-wide survey was conducted by the editors. The comments collected in this qualitative survey demonstrated that a large amount of the campus population feel the name reminds them of the sexually-transmitted disease Chlamydia. Several people said a part of the name sounds like a female sex organ. A small percent said that they had no problem with the name, and many people are unaware that the paper is produced by a newspaper publication class of student reporters, editors and graphic designers.
"When I first became a student at UHCL and saw the name of the school paper, I was a little puzzled as to how to pronounce it," said Joyce Delores Taylor, president of the Student Government Association. "I actually spoke with a few of the seasoned UHCL students and asked for the correct pronunciation. To my surprise, they all seemed to pronounce it differently than what I finally learned was the true pronunciation. It appeared to follow the patterns of pronunciation for a part of the female anatomy. Once I learned the correct pronunciation, I have always been very careful to say it the right way"
After researching potential name choices, existing student newspaper names in the state of Texas, and student reactions to the current name, the staff came up with their top three name choices: The Advocate, The Scribe and Signals.
Before making a final decision, the editors and staff will collect and carefully weigh feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Because it is a student newspaper, the first stop in collecting that feedback was before the Student Government Association. The editors gave an informational presentation at the April 2 SGA meeting about the upcoming change. A question-and-answer period followed to give student leaders a chance to express opinions and suggestions about the name change.
The following day, the editors and a senior staff member gave the same presentation before the faculty senate.
In addition, name change feedback forms were sent to communication faculty to distribute in their classrooms. The same form is available on Page 3 of this issue to provide the greater UHCL community the same opportunity.
The students who produce the UHCLIDIAN have won countless awards over the years for its stories, photos, headlines and design elements, but never for the newspaper's name. Last month at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association journalism competition, the newspaper won 23 state awards. The paper also won four national awards from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Student staff members want a name that is more representative of this award-winning publication and one that relates more closely to the field of journalism.
"It was pretty tough trying to explain the nature of our publication to the governor's press secretary," said Bret Newcomb, reporter for the UHCLDIAN. "Words like ‘UHCLIDIAN' and ‘HPV' tend to set off a few red flags when they are used in conjunction with one another."
"It has been challenging to sell ads to new clients and national clients like McDonald's or Washington Mutual," said Lindsay Humphrey, UHCLIDIAN ad manager and production assistant. "The validity of the paper is often questioned because of its name."
Not everyone is thrilled about having a new name for the paper because of its historical ties to the university.
"I oppose dropping the name UHCLIDIAN for a number of reasons," said Jon Zophy, professor of European history. " First of all, I like the name. It is unique to our university. It is special and gets students who are curious into the whole issue of homonyms and Euclid, nice liberal arts stretching and cultural references, sorely needed in this age of crass vocationalism.
Secondly, UHCLIDIAN has been the name of our student paper from the early days of the university. It is one of our few traditions at a place that sadly lacks in tradition. It gives our current student journalists a link with the past and earlier generations of student journalists."
"When I first heard about it, I guess I had a little trepidation," said Ashley Packard, associate professor of communication. "I used to teach newspaper publication. The name was sentimental to me."
Packard said that after Washington explained the reasons behind the name change proposal, she better understood the students' goal and is supportive of the decision.
Not every communication student has had negative experiences with the name, but most do understand why the change is a positive change for the better.
"I, personally, never encountered any problems with the old name," said Diana North, a former editor of the UHCLIDIAN. "But change and growth are good, and if the new name better represents the publication, I welcome it. A student-run campus newspaper should represent the university and the students who are part of it. It should be a forum for the expression of ideas and opinions. The name of a publication is part of that expression, and I'm sure the new one will add something of value to those goals."
During the next few weeks, the staff will carefully consider all of the feedback received. A final decision will be announced in Issue 7.
For further information or to offer an opinion, see Page 3 of this issue for the Student Newspaper Name Change Feedback Form or contact the UHCLIDIAN staff in the Student Publications Office, Room B1239, or send e-mails to UHCLIDIAN@uhcl.edu.
The three top finalists for a new name for the student newspaper are:
• The Advocate - represents the championing of those who might not otherwise have a voice.
• The Scribe - a writer, especially a journalist. This name has historical connotations while still being relevant today.
• Signals - represents an action, gesture or sign. Now that the newspaper is multimedia this name seems to look toward the future instead of reflecting the past, and UHCL is currently the only university in Texas that offers a master's program in Digital Media Studies.
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