July 10, 2008

Initial Change: Name Change for Arts School is OK’D in Both Houses of Legislature

By James Romoser and Ken Keuffel, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Jul. 10--RALEIGH -- A bill to change the name of the N.C. School of the Arts has passed both chambers of the state legislature, virtually assuring that the school's new name will be "University of North Carolina School of the Arts."

The N.C. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill yesterday, several weeks after the N.C. Senate approved it. Gov. Mike Easley is expected to sign it into law.

School leaders requested the name change earlier this year. They say that the new name will emphasize the school's affiliation with the UNC system, and they say they think that it will help with fundraising and recruitment. The name change would tie NCSA more explicitly to the UNC system. Supporters say that it would make the school better known, raise its stock among donors, and clear up confusion among people who think that NCSA is only a high school. NCSA is a high school and a university.

"What this bill would simply do is add 'University of North Carolina' to the School of the Arts," said state Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, who shepherded the bill through the House.

"I feel very good about it. We got our varsity letter today," said John Mauceri, NCSA's chancellor. "It is a resounding affirmation of the quality of the school and its desire to be viewed as a center of excellence."

But some alumni and others connected with the school have opposed the change, worrying that it will hurt the school's brand. It has an international reputation as a top arts school.

"It's ill-advised because it was good brand," said Ari Casper, a School of the Arts alumna. "UNC is a very different kind of brand. UNC is football and basketball and a law school and a medical school. It has nothing to do with the arts -- it hasn't for 50 years."

Another opponent, Robert Mittelstadt, said that he and other alumni may not contribute to the school as much as they have in the past. They believe that Mauceri rushed the name change without fully examining its impact or consulting alumni.

The school has declined requests from opponents to conduct a formal study on how the new name will affect marketing.

Mauceri said yesterday that the new name "absolutely" will help with fundraising and recruitment, though he cautioned that it was "one piece" of a broader effort. For example, money needs to raised for more scholarships to attract the best students, many of whom can get better deals from other schools.

"Because we've changed (the name) doesn't mean that everything's done," Mauceri said. "We're working on every aspect of the school to make it the best school in the world, the best school it can be. That, of course, includes how we better treat and appreciate our faculty; how we recruit the best students; how we support them, the scholarships.

"It's just part of the puzzle but it's a very big one. It's kind of hard to raise money and scholarships for something (for which) you have to have four sentences to explain who you are."

Name changes among schools in the UNC system are not unprecedented. In 1996, for example, Pembroke State University changed its name to the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Sandra K. Waterkotte, the vice chancellor for advancement at UNC Pembroke, said that the name change was "nothing but positive" for the school.

"I would hesitate to say that changing from Pembroke State University to University of North Carolina at Pembroke was in and of itself responsible for fundraising and recruitment increases," Waterkotte said. "But, indirectly, certainly that was the case. I know our recruitment has increased hundreds of percents, as has our fundraising in the time that's gone by. But I'd be hesitant to say it was strictly the name."

The new name for the School of the Arts was requested by the school's board of trustees and approved by the UNC board of governors earlier this year, but it also required the approval of the legislature. Despite organized opposition from alumni, it encountered little resistance from legislators.

The school, which is in Winston-Salem, was founded in 1963 as a public conservatory of the performing arts. It offers high school, undergraduate and graduate degrees.

James Romoser can be reached at 919-210-6794 or at [email protected]

Ken Keuffel can be reached at 727-7337 or at [email protected]


To see more of the Winston-Salem Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.journalnow.com/.

Copyright (c) 2008, Winston-Salem Journal, N.C.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.