EDITORIAL: DUC Hunt: Administration putting tradition, student opinion in its crosshairs

The name of the Downing University Center has been changed to Dero Downing Student Union.

Herald Staff

THE ISSUE: WKU announced on July 2 the name change of the Downing University Center to the Downing Student Union, in order to better reflect the building’s purpose as a student hub. Howard Bailey, vice president for Student Affairs, and other members of the Administrative Council made the decision.

OUR STANCE: The administration changing the name of a primarily student used building without asking students for their involvement is unacceptable, and the Student Government Association has failed in its duties of representing the voice of the students. Changing the name of the most loved building on campus without even gauging student interest flies in the face of tradition and is a terrible way for WKU to introduce the newly renovated Downing University Center to the next generation of WKU students.

Is that it? 

Just like that, the Downing University Center is gone, the name of WKU’s heart and soul changed to the Downing Student Union by Howard Bailey and the administrative council. More than 40 years of tradition and convenience thrown out the window. “DUC” is so easy to say. It rolls off the tongue. “DISS U?” Not so much. That is bad enough in and of itself, but here’s the real kicker: It was all done not only without student involvement, but in defiance of it.

Just two years ago in 2011 when first wind of the renovation project begin sweeping across campus, SGA addressed the matter head on. A resolution that would have changed the name was struck down 19-8. That decision apparently means very little to the administration, despite meaning quite a lot to students at the time.

Bailey, President Gary Ransdell and SGA President Keyana Boka claim the name “DUC” doesn’t do the building justice. Downing University Center is essentially a student union they tell us, not an administrative building as the words “University Center” imply. The name change simply more accurately reflects the buildings purpose.

But isn’t it strange that the decision to rename a building primarily for students, and the only building on campus students directly pay for with a special fee, doesn’t in any way shape or form involve the students?

Of course Boka is supportive of “DSU” as it will now be called. She sponsored the name change resolution in 2011, saying the name change represents “a turning of the page,” and a “new chapter” for WKU. That’s all well and great but Boka, despite being SGA president, (a title she holds thanks to another decision by Bailey) shouldn’t be supporting a measure that the majority of WKU’s 20,000 students don’t support. Maybe she could, you know, try asking her constituents their opinion on the matter.

Her predecessor Cory Dodds didn’t do any better. He told Bailey in the spring SGA didn’t have an opinion on the name change and declined to create another resolution that would allow a vote on the matter, without even bothering to ask the student body their opinions. Well, the opinions of students are being heard loud and clear right now – most against the change, but some for it. What good are SGA leaders if they don’t even bother to listen to both sides of the student body it was created to represent on a matter that from the overwhelming response is of obvious importance to them?

We understand the university not wanting to refer to the main legacy on campus of WKUs fourth president Dero Downing’s as an awkward, billed animal. We get that. But nobody at the university means any disrespect to Mr. Downing’s memory when they call or text their friends and say “Let’s meet at DUC,” or “I will see you in DUC.”

Few people are fond of change, as students and alumni have made apparent on Facebook and Twitter, especially unnecessary change. Changing the name to the Downing Student Union doesn’t do any more to describe to newcomers on campus the building’s purpose than DUC does. DUC is the university’s center, both literally and figuratively. It is in the middle of campus. Thousands pass through its doors every day, on their way to lunch or on their way to the top of the hill. It is also the the center of the university in a less literal way. The WKU bookstore has been housed there, as well as the Fresh Food Company, the food court, RedZone, and the auditorium. It will soon be home to a Starbucks, a large study area and more. Students call it home. Center is in the building’s name. In that way, it can’t be more suitably named.

You can change the name of the building, but you can’t change the culture that has sprung up around it. WKU is still called Western by many, and the now DSU will be DUC for much longer than the administration may think. If this is the case, what then is the point of changing the name in the first place, other than to fit in with other similar “benchmark” universities? There isn’t one. It is unnecessary.

Alex Downing, Dero’s son, in an interview last year said, “It was an honor for my father to have his name associated with that building, especially one that is such a home to students.” And Alex is right. WKU’s campus revolves around Downing University Center. DUC is home for students. For the administration to simply change the name of the most beloved building on campus without even asking its primary users their opinion seems to do more to disrespect Mr. Downing’s name than a silly acronym ever could.

Due to the availability of the Herald Editorial Board, this editorial represents the majority opinion of five editors and two members of the College Heights Herald staff.