- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 1, 2001

SALISBURY, Md. — Salisbury State University officially loses its middle name today, and hopefully the jokes that liken it to a popular TV dinner entree.
Administrators and students alike have become weary of the response they often get when they identify their school: "Salisbury steak?"
"That kind of undercuts all we've tried to do to raise the reputation and quality of the university," said Gains Hawkins, Salisbury's assistant vice president for university advancement.
Name changes are nothing new at the school now known as Salisbury University.
The university has undergone five of them since it opened in 1925 as a two-year college called the Maryland State Normal School at Salisbury.
The latest name, however, is the first that won't include "state" somewhere in the title. Mr. Hawkins said a marketing survey the university conducted showed that word had a negative connotation for both prospective applicants and contributors.
Salisbury University, located two hours east of Baltimore and the District and two hours south of Philadelphia, enrolled 6,400 full- and part-time students last year.
Many applicants assume "state" schools have lower academic standards, and many contributors conclude such institutions have all their financial needs met by state government, Mr. Hawkins said.
The reality, however, is that the academic credentials of Salisbury's students are among the best at Maryland's public universities, and the school gets less than half of its funding from the state.
The name change was overwhelmingly supported by groups representing the university's administrators, fund-raisers, faculty and students.
Mr. Hawkins said concerns about the connotation of "state" have led other public colleges and universities to drop the name from their titles, including Towson University outside of Baltimore, which made the change four years ago.
But the desire to nix name-calling might be unique to Salisbury's transformation.
"To people who live in and around Salisbury, they really don't appreciate that argument very much," Mr. Hawkins said. "It's people who travel who do."
Elizabeth Wallace of Salisbury, a housekeeper on campus for 12 years, said she was unaware of the Salisbury steak joke before the issue of the name change arose on campus in recent years.
But senior Megan Erickson of Baltimore said she heard the joke repeatedly from other American students who studied with her during a semester she spent in Spain.
"That's one thing everybody said — Salisbury steak?" Miss Erickson said.
To Mr. Hawkins and other administrators, the joke is not only "tiresome and sophomoric," it damages the university's reputation and hurts the employment prospects of its graduates.
Protecting the school's reputation comes at a price.
The school first estimated it would cost about $10,000 to change every sign that includes the word "state," but the tab probably will be less than that, Mr. Hawkins said.
And he expects the expense to be offset at least in part by demands for university merchandise with the new, downsized name.
"Everybody's going to want to have something with the new logo on it," Mr. Hawkins said.

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