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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lawmakers suggest Elizabeth City consider name change


A NC state lawmaker asked the Elizabeth City State University Board of Trustees to study a possible name change for the university to reflect ECSU’s regional appeal.

State Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, emphasized that his recommendation is only that ECSU officials study a name change.
“I’m not suggesting anything other than they look into it and weigh the pros and cons,” Owens said.

It’s unknown what type of reception Owens will get. Already, four key alumni leaders have signed a letter opposing changing the school’s name.

The school’s name has changed a couple of times in the past. After starting out in 1891 as a Colored Normal School, the school was renamed Elizabeth City State Teachers College in 1937 before again being renamed Elizabeth City State College in 1963. In 1969, the college’s name was changed again — this time to ECSU.

Although one proposed name for the university is the University of North Carolina at Elizabeth City, others such as Northeastern North Carolina University have been suggested, Owens said.

The lawmaker said other campuses in the UNC System have benefited from name changes. When Pembroke State University, for example, changed its name to UNC-Pembroke the school saw a dramatic increase in enrollment, Owens said. A similar change for ECSU might make it easier to raise money and to recruit faculty and staff, he said. ECSU trustees should talk to UNC-Pembroke about its experience with the name change, he said.

ECSU is making great strides in the past few years, adding master’s degree programs and growing the enrollment, Owens said. He added the school had benefited from $100 million in capital improvements during the last several years. Owens said he wanted to see both ECSU and College of The Albemarle continue to grow and become stronger. City Councilwoman Betty Meggs, a member of the university’s Board of Visitors, said Saturday she hadn’t made up her mind about the proposal to study changing ECSU’s name. “I can see pros and cons in it,” she said. Meggs said she had heard the argument that a name change might make it more likely that someone from, say, Chicago might choose to attend the university.

“Nobody knows where Elizabeth City is if they’re from way off from here,” Meggs said.

Travis Faulcon of Littleton, one of the graduates at ECSU’s commencement ceremony Saturday, said following the ceremony that the name of the university wasn’t important to him.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Faulcon said. “I got the best education possible here. So the name change — it doesn’t matter.”
Faulcon earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and plans to become a public health director.
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