SMS name change prompts debate

Sen. chuck Graham (D-Columbia), member of the Senate Education Commitee, questions SMSU´s request.

Greg Salzer

Sen. chuck Graham (D-Columbia), member of the Senate Education Commitee, questions SMSU´s request.

JEFFERSON CITY — Sharp questions greeted Sen. Norma Champion (R-Springfield) and others presenting Senate Bill 25 to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.

“The label changes perception,” Champion said. “We are not asking for a change of labels without the product being there.”

“It makes a tremendous difference if we change the label to reflect who we are,” she said. “No other school in the United States the size of SMS has a bi-directional name.”

SB-25 would change the name of Southwest Missouri State University to Missouri State University.

Champion said SMSU has students from every county in the state, from 49 other states, and from 91 foreign countries.

SMSU has grown four times faster than any other state school over the past couple of years. Only 28 percent of freshman are from the Greene County area.

“Instead of thinking in terms that we are going to take away a bigger piece of the pie and be afraid of competition, we are suggesting that what we need to do is enlarge the pie,” Champion said.

Michael Duggan, member of SMSU’s Board of Governors, expressed the board’s support for the name change.

Duggan said the name more accurately describes what the institution has become, and the name change would be good for Missouri by keeping students in state and attracting more students from out-of-state.

“We have a case of what I call identity theft,” said Sen. Chuck Graham (D-Columbia), committee member. “You are taking a name that belongs to another institution.”

He said the name, Missouri State University, was carved in the walls of the state capital building about 1917 or 1918 and was understood to refer to the campus in Columbia.

Graham said the term Mizzou comes from graduates calling the campus in Columbia “old msu” or “mizzou” after 1901.

“If [Graham] wants the name Missouri State, we might talk about a cooperative effort,” Champion said. “We will take the name University of Missouri.”

Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) said it was possible to characterize SMSU as having a statewide mission and a statewide identity and still consider it as a regional institution for purposes of funding.

The name change is expected to draw extensive debate when it reaches the Senate floor.