by REEVE HAMILTON
Texas State University-San Marcos will get a new name — again — as a result of a bill passed by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, during the regular session.
The passage of Senate Bill 974 will provide the institution its seventh name since it was originally founded in 1903.
Initially called Southwest Texas State Normal School, the final word in the name was changed to “College” in 1918. Then, “Normal” became “Teachers” in 1923. The name was shortened to Southwest Texas State College in 1959, and then “College” became “University” in 1969. In 2003, the “Southwest” was dropped and “-San Marcos” was tacked onto the end.
Now, starting Sept. 1, the new official name for Texas State University-San Marcos will be — drumroll, please — Texas State University!
It’s not the biggest change. Most people already drop the “-San Marcos” when referring to the university. But proponents of the change are hoping it will clear up current confusion about the university’s multiple locations and the potential for name changes at the system’s other universities.
Texas State President Denise Trauth said the change was needed for two reasons. First, since 2003, the school has acquired a branch campus north of Austin, which currently goes by the official name of Texas State University-San Marcos Round Rock Campus.
“That is very confusing,” Trauth observed.
In 2003, some members of the Texas State University System board of regents assumed that other universities in the system would alter their names to fit the school’s name template; for example, Sam Houston State University would become Texas State University-Huntsville. But in the intervening years, it became clear that there was little to no appetite for that. Lawmakers even passed a bill to prohibit Sam Houston State University from changing its name.
“All of the other schools in our system are named for Texas heroes,” Trauth said.
In addition to Sam Houston, the system has four institutions named for former Republic of Texas President Mirabeau Lamar — Lamar University, Lamar Institute of Technology, Lamar State College-Orange and Lamar State College-Port Arthur — and two campuses — Sul Ross State University and Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College — named for former Texas Gov. Sul Ross, who was also a general in the Confederate army.
Dropping the final two words of their current name will not cause the university to incur any significant financial costs, Trauth said. Existing business cards and stationary will be used up, and campus signage can be altered without being completely replaced.
The change isn’t expected to cost the school any good will, either. Trauth said that unlike previous changes, she had not heard any complaints about the latest one.
“It wasn’t like when we dropped ‘Southwest.’ That was a big deal, no question about it,” she said. “Now, I think everybody is happy, but at the time, there was considerable discussion among our alum. But I’m not picking up any of that this time.”
The noncontroversial nature of the change was also helpful to Campbell. The name-changing bill was the first one she passed as a member of the Texas Senate.
Traditionally, freshman lawmakers are hazed by their colleagues when attempting to pass their first piece of legislation, but Campbell was hopeful she could avoid it.
“I thought it would be a no-hazing kind of deal,” she said. “I thought, what can they do to me on this?”
She found out when the bill went through committee. Campbell was asked to sing the university’s fight song — and she didn’t know it.
By the time bill reached the Senate floor, she had learned the song and was prepared. The expected hazing occurred, and she described it as “quite spirited and quite fun.” But she never actually had to sing.
“With the decorum of the Senate, we felt like it would be better if I didn’t challenge anybody with that,” she said. “Though I did put earplugs in everybody’s desk just in case.”
Just as she hopes to never go through the hazing process again, Campbell said she is confident that the university will not require another name-changing process in the future.
“I don’t really see a need to ever change it again,” Campbell said.
Trauth seemed to agree.
“I think there’s a sense that maybe this is what should have happened in the first place,” she said. “It took two steps and an extra 10 years, but we got to where we needed to get to.”
REEVE HAMILTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print