By Jeremy Schwartz
SAN MARCOS — SWT: Those three little initials will be just a reminder of a bygone era after the Texas Legislature changed Southwest Texas State University’s name to Texas State University-San Marcos on Wednesday.
The House’s voice vote sent the bill to Gov. Rick Perry and could mark the end of years of debate. Students who supported the change took the issue to Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, this year after the university’s administration balked.
Supporters say the new name will give the 25,000-student university a moniker that befits its rising stature and sheds the regionalism implied by Southwest Texas.
But many alumni complain that student leaders didn’t get enough input from their predecessors before approaching lawmakers, officials at other schools in the Texas State University System said the new name confers unwarranted flagship status on SWT, and still others said the school’s new initials, TSU, would lead to confusion with Texas Southern and Tarlton State universities.
On a mostly deserted campus where the summer session hasn’t yet started, the news of the school’s impending change was met with excitement, a little anxiety and relief that the debate may be over.
“ Texas State just sounds easier. . . . Boom. It’s a shorter name,” junior Adam Covacevich said before the legislature’s final vote. “I just need a name on my diploma. I’ll have the education to back it up.”
But senior Micaela Aranda, who will be among the first TSU alums when she graduates in December, said she’s worried that the new name will confuse potential employers. “Will it help me or hurt me? People won’t know what Texas State University is,” she said. “Southwest was just barely starting to make a name for itself.”
Student Milton Perez said the change is positive. “It’s more recognition,” he said. “People think we’re a regional school because of the name.”
But the name also serves as an emotional attachment to thousands of alumni who fear that the new name will erase a part of the school’s character. Some have threatened to stop sending donations to the school. Liz Rosenblath Brunner, a former SWT Alumni Association president, said in an e-mail that Wentworth, an Aggie, would pay. “There is a strong contingent of SWT alums who will make sure he does not win his next election,” she wrote.
The name change would go into effect Sept. 1, and officials estimate that it will cost almost $400,000 to change signs and stationery. Supporters have said they’ve secured $1.4 million in verbal pledges from sympathetic alumni. The school’s development foundation set up a fund Tuesday to funnel donations into the university budget, spokesman Mark Hendricks said.
SWT President Denise Trauth, hired last June, had wanted to wait until the 2005 Legislative session before making a decision on the name change, a position endorsed by the Texas State University System board of regents. Wentworth, who authored the bill, said he was confident Trauth would have come to the same conclusion as her predecessor Jerome Supple did, in favor of the change.