November 24, 2004

UL Laughingstock?

As someone who has attended this school long enough to have tenure, I remember when the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana. On Sept. 10, 1999, USL finally saw the end to its regional stigma upon the removal of the archaic “Southwestern” from its name. However, the name change also spelled the end of a reliable moniker for our school. In the ensuing years, the exact nature of our name has remained up for debate.

In an effort to address this problem, The Daily Advertiser recently decided to refer to our school exclusively as the University of Louisiana. The Advertiser, whose editorials usually run along the lines of “School’s in—drive safely” and “Business Expo will be good for area businesses,” has taken a strong stand on an actual issue for once. Way to go! Such a move is a nice reminder of the once-popular concept of civil disobedience.

Needless to say, rival newspapers such as The Advocate have not embraced such a policy. And, as its staff editorial noted last week, neither will The Vermilion. I can understand why a Baton Rouge-based paper would not indulge UL. But why hasn’t The Vermilion? Good question.

Like many Ragin’ Cajuns, I have never been totally comfortable with the name UL Lafayette or its variations. Quite frankly, it is a bulky and awkward name that does little to remove the regional connotations from our school (which was the whole point in the first place). It smacks of the usual pro-LSU bias that increasingly defines the simplemindedness of our state politics.

Dropping that second L would go a long way toward clarifying our name in the national spotlight. ESPN, for example, never gets our name right. Over the course of one basketball season, I saw us represented as “ULL,” “LAF” and even the horrid “LAL”—none of which are officially sanctioned abbreviations. “LOU” would work, as might “LA.” If I have to hear someone speak condescendingly of “ULL, U-La-La or whatever you call it these days” one more time, I’m going to nuke the state capitol, okay?

From the outset, we should have been the University of Louisiana; otherwise, why bother changing the name at all? But we all knew the rule (written with no small influence from LSU backers) that no university could take the name University of Louisiana unless another university took it as well. Thus began our inseparable bond with UL Monroe, a school that mirrors us in every way—except that it’s a completely different and unrelated institution. Does anyone really confuse the two? I seriously doubt it.

Would we ever be able to erase the city tag? At least one well-known Louisiana school already does it! LSU has several locations across Louisiana, among them satellite campuses in Shreveport, Alexandria and Eunice. The proper name for the main campus is Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. Check out http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/louisiana/uni.htm if you think I’m kidding. If LSU can conveniently forget its regional name, why can’t we?

If The Vermilion wants to continue to live in U-La-La Land, then so be it. But as this paper’s masthead reminds us, opinions expressed in The Verm do not necessarily reflect those of other writers. I know that The Vermilion’s pro-“UL at Lafayette” policy does not reflect my views. And I, for one, refuse to let a particular “flagship” university decide for us that we should be comfortable with carrying the name of a second-tier school. And our own university community certainly should not be the ones embracing such a small-time mentality. The University of Louisiana should never be satisfied with being number two.

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