Friday, March 28, 2014

A University By Any Other Name Would Teach As Sweet

New name, same education
Friends in Chicago take pride in their town's habit of stubbornly refusing to acknowledge a change in name for structures in which they take pride.

The countless Irish who emigrated and sprouted new roots are the source of that mindset. What is happening at Trinity College Dublin proves it.

Ask a true Chicagoan where the Willis Tower is and they'll look at you as if you're in the wrong city. It's the Sears Tower, if you please, because that's what it was called first and nothing's changed about the structure. A foreign entity came in and bought the naming rights but no one asked the average citizen if they approved the change and so, there is no Willis Tower to be found in the city.

For centuries, the collection of buildings dedicated to third level education has been Trinity College Dublin. From the start, it was a Protestant seat of learning. The Catholics created University College Dublin for the faithful, who once found it difficult to gain entry in an era of blatant discrimination against Catholics in the largely Catholic colony of Great Britain.

Universities need to attract students from a broad background in order to flourish, especially if that university is to crank out graduates who go on to become masters of the universe who then donate generously to their alma mater. Public funds are limited, and if a college wants to erect a new chemistry laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment, that takes donations from the alumni.

Then there is the need to have the best and the brightest on campus, to keep the standards high while still filling slots. Employers often base their decision to hire, or not, on where the student went to school. A university with a stellar, worldwide, reputation is more likely to position its graduates in highly desirable jobs.

Where does TCD fit? It is not one of the world's top schools. It is not the worst, either, but it trails several other schools in Europe, from which it seeks to draw students. The average Irish kid knows how the system works. He or she would rather go someplace with a big name than settle for UCD if their parents can handle the expense. That's not the best way to build a brand.

So TCD is going to re-brand. The administration is, at any rate. The professors aren't buying it.

Officially, it will soon be Trinity College, the University of Dublin. Someone must have thought that had a nice ring to it, like Mansfield College, the University of Oxford. And there's no denying that Oxford is far above TCD in the league tables.

Changing the name won't improve academics or boost funding, but it will annoy the professors who have published (rather than perish) as teachers at Trinity College Dublin. They fear a name change will result in their brilliance getting lost in cyberspace as scholars search "Trinity College, the University of Dublin" and do not find those works published under the old name.

They will not use the new name. The administration can splash it over letterhead and website and wherever, but the rank and file will be TCD forever.

Like the Sears Tower in Chicago. There is no TC, the U of D in Dublin, even if the sign in front says something different.

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