The College of Liberal Arts might undergo a name change this year.
After discussion among faculty at the college led to an expressed interest in changing the name of CoLA, a committee has been formed to look at whether the current name is suitable, and if not, what new name would better define the college. The recommendation to change the name or keep it should be made by the end of this semester, said Kimberly Leonard, dean of CoLA.
At a retreat in January for chairs of departments within CoLA, Leonard said faculty discussed different obstacles CoLA faced and how the faculty within the college could collaborate more. One of the most popular ideas, she said, was a name change.
The college’s image was the focus when the group considered the name change, Leonard said. She said she thinks the college needs to better market itself and some of its programs in order to recruit and retain students and faculty.
Since the term “liberal arts” has been used in association with colleges in different ways for centuries, one concern is whether students know what liberal arts means.
By breaking the name down to include areas such as arts, humanities and social sciences, Peter Chametzky, director of the school of art and design and chair of the committee researching the name change, said some students may easily identify with the college.
“I rarely encounter a student who really knows what liberal arts really means,” he said.
Although the committee has not met yet, Chametzky said a few of the questions that coul be considered include if CoLA clearly and accurately reflects what is being done in programs at the college, and if it’s clear to students what the college represents.
“In my opinion, there are quite a few things going on in the College of Liberal Arts that don’t fit into that category,” he said.
Chametzky said he hopes discussion about the name change will be positive, even if the committee decides the name should remain.
“If it stays the way it is, it wouldn’t be a disaster,” he said.
In sync with the university’s marketing plan, Leonard said the college will be printing new materials in the fall with the new SIUC logo. As a result, she said she has asked the committee addressing the change to give a recommendation by the end of the semester.
In addition to forming a committee, Leonard sent a survey to CoLA faculty and staff asking what other college names they prefer, if any. She said a majority of the people did not participate, but about 100 did.
Of the options on the informal survey, there were different renditions of the areas of humanities, arts and social sciences used in the surveyed titles. The most popular, Leonard said, were The College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CHASS); and The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CAHSS).
She said most comments from departments were that they agree a name change should be considered because the college may better present itself as to what liberal arts includes. Some people, though, have voiced opinions against the change, she said.
“The disagreement is on whether we should just do a better job with our current name or we should specify the arts, the humanities and the social sciences, because those are disciplines that people are more clear about what they are,” she said.
Although three categories have been looked at for a possible title, CoLA currently encompasses more than 20 programs, schools and departments, which may affect how it’s categorized.
Jonathan Gray, an associate professor in speech communication, said he isn’t opposed to considering a name change for the college as a whole, but it might impact the major he teaches within.
He said speech communication involves humanities, arts and social sciences, which are the three names used in the survey. Speech communication, Gray said, may be labeled better as liberal arts.
“It captures the breadth of what we do, because it’s more holistic, instead of three separate areas,” he said. “Here we are in a department where all of the three factor into it. We sort of struggle to identify with just one.”
Gray said the idea of examining what exactly the CoLA is and how to define it might be beneficial even if a name change isn’t made.
“I think right now we’re really experiencing a need to refresh ourselves at the university and the college,” he said. “It’s not something to get upset about, even if there is a name change, as long as we’re still doing good work.”