Fort Lewis College seeks feedback about name change

Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017 11:00 PM
Fort Lewis College is considering renaming the institution in an effort to stem enrollment decline. The school could transition to a university, or undergo a complete name change depending on feedback.

Fort Lewis College has begun its process of considering renaming the school, in part to counteract enrollment decline.

Talk of a name change has been taking place for at least the last five years. Now it is in action. One of the college’s first actions was appointing an 11-person name change committee.

“There are a whole bunch of moving parts to this,” said Mark Jastorff, vice president for advancement and committee chairman. “We started by talking to Native American alumni and had some preliminary discussions with the community.”

The college recently posted an online survey targeted to alumni, students, faculty and staff to gauge feedback.

Jastorff said FLC has about 28,500 alumni. The survey reached about 14,000 alumni with active email addresses. The remaining alumni will get the survey by mail.

FLC spokesman Mitch Davis said response to the surveys has been “very good.”

“There is a lot of good discussion, but it is so early in the process that we haven’t evaluated the data yet,” he said. “There are people who feel very strongly on all sides.”

The school could transition to a university, or undergo a complete name change depending on feedback.

Davis said some students are confused when they hear the word “college,” and depending on where they live, it can have different meanings.

“On the East Coast, there is that perspective of private, elite, prestigious and expensive,” Davis said in a previous interview. “If you’re from California, college means community college. At FLC, we’ve seen that from students. They don’t realize we are a four-year school.”

FLC’s wide-reaching efforts to garner feedback on the name change will include a series of focus groups on the Front Range, in the community and on campus. Davis said those focus groups will take place January and February.

“We are curious about the words ‘university’ and ‘college,’ and whether that has any impact on students being hired,” he said.

The college will also speak with prospective students and high school counselors about the name change.

Davis said the institution currently does not have any replacement names in mind.

“If you asked 100 people what they thought the name should be, you’d get 100 different answers,” he said. “Our first step is to find out what stakeholders feel about a change, period.”

If the data leads the college to change its name, it must be approved by the Board of Trustees before being handed to a legislator.

“Pending approval from the board, a bill would need to be voted on to change the name,” Jastorff said. “It is a very involved process.”

Jastorff said the goal is to present the data to the board and decide whether to change the name by late spring or early summer 2018.

“In a perfect world, we would like to carry it into the Legislature in January 2019 if we go forward with a name change,” he said.

Davis said it is “entirely possible” the college will not change its name at all.

“We are gathering data to see where it leads us,” he said. “We could stay Fort Lewis College.”

The naming consideration committee is:

‰ Faculty members: Jennifer Gay and Tomasz Miaskiewicz.

‰ Students: Dustin Fink and Jacob Harrison.

‰ Staff members: Davis, Derek Kosty, Lindsay Nyquist, Jastorff and Steve Schwartz.

‰ Community members and/or alumni: Jack Llewellyn and Meredith Mapel.