Officials with UMKC are considering a plan to change the school’s name back to it’s original name, the University of Kansas City.
The university opened as the University of Kansas City in 1929, and became the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1963 when it joined the University of Missouri system, joining campuses in Columbia, St. Louis and Rolla.
UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton told The Kansas City Star that the name change would better identify the university with its mission to be a model urban research university.
“A name defines who you are, but it also defines whose you are,” said Morton, adding that the change would help to differentiate the school from the University of Missouri in Columbia, and to clear up the occasional misconception that UMKC is a satellite campus of Mizzou and not a stand-alone university.
School officials say that the name change could cost the school around $500,000 for signage and other material, and must first be approved by the UM Board of Curators. Funds for the proposed name change would have to be raised from donors, as state funds cannot be used in this instance.
I’m a bit surprised by how much I care about UMKC’s proposed name change. (I haven’t had much to do with with anything since graduating in 2010.) I REALLY hate the idea. Being a part of the University of Missouri system is a selling point for UMKC. Before the school joined the system, they were struggling to stay afloat. Having “University of Missouri” in the name lets possible employers and others know that you went to a school that is part of the highest group of universities in the state. MU is a name recognized nationally, and being associated with that name helps UMKC.
The argument seems to be that they want the name to reflect that it’s part of Kansas City. It already has Kansas City in the name! KC is in the acronym. How is that not making it clear that UMKC is in Kansas City? I’ve never once had someone ask, “So you were in Kansas City?” after hearing where I went to school. That UMKC is a part of Kansas City is obvious. That we’re the biggest university in Kansas City is implied by being part of the UM system.
The other argument involves another school in the University of Missouri system: Rolla. Rolla changed their name from “University of Missouri - Rolla” to “Missouri University of Science and Technology”. This name change is for a completely different reason (and a legitimate one) than UMKC’s proposed change. In Missouri, Rolla is known as the school to go to if you want a science, technology, mathematics, or engineering degree. In Missouri, they’re the best school for those subjects.
So why change their name? Let me ask, if you live outside Missouri, have you ever heard of Rolla? No? I’m not surprised. I’ve lived here my entire life and didn’t know Rolla existed until I started looking at colleges. It’s down in the Ozarks, and has a population of 19,559. So, the name “University of Missouri - Rolla” didn’t mean a whole lot to prospective students (either in-state or out-of-state), and changing their name to reflect the type of school they really are makes perfect sense. It’s no surprise that enrollment and interest in the school has gone up since changing the name.
UMKC doesn’t have that problem. Kansas City is the largest city in Missouri. (St. Louis has a larger metro area, but that includes it’s suburbs.) Go on vacation and tell someone you’re from Kansas City. They might think you mean Kansas, but they know where Kansas City is. Tell them you went to the University of Missouri - Kansas City, and not only do they know that you went to part of the system of state universities on the same level as MU, but they know you were in Kansas City.
Simply put, we don’t need to spend an estimated $500,000 to change our name. We’re the University of Missouri, we’re in Kansas City. Changing the name to back University of Kansas City or Kansas City University removes all affiliation with the UM system. (I don’t think they’ve decided which one they’re campaigning for yet, and KCU was an old methodist school in Kansas so I don’t know why that’s even being considered.)
My grandfather went to the University of Kansas City, before it was affiliated with UM. My mother graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. I graduated from the University of Missouri - Kansas City. I’m waiting for them to ask for alumni votes, so that I can let them know just how unnecessary and harmful this change is to the school.