Student journalists uncover University of Houston-Downtown spent $50,000 on failed name change

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By Alma Garcia
The Venture

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Recently released documents by the University of Houston-Downtown and obtained by The Venture through the freedom of information act, shows that the school hired Stamats, a higher education marketing company, for approximately $50,000 to oversee a failed attempt to change the university’s name.

“Stamats is a leader in higher education marketing. They were chosen following an RFP (Request-for-Proposal) posted by the university and after considerable work with a local marketing firm and by internal UHD staff,” said Claire Caton, Director of Media Relations at UHD.

In September 2008, former President Max Castillo announced the university was seeking a name change. The statement and resulting research by Stamats touched off a furor among students, local politicians and faculty.

“The discussion regarding the name change began in 2007 and occurred over a period of two and a half years. The discussions were focused on eliminating confusion between the University of Houston and the University of Houston-Downtown, and increasing visibility for UHD,” said Caton.

UHD officials envisioned a distinct identity for the university that would eliminate confusion among donors and student applicants with the UH flagship campus which is less than 10 miles away. Critics did not buy the university’s rationale and pointed to the fact that UH-Clear Lake and UH-Victoria would both keep their respective names.

UHD is a separate university and not a branch of UH. Students, alumni, faculty and staff members were divided on the issue.
Those against the name change worried that a new name would cause further confusion, and that it would lead to an unnecessary explanation, regarding the name change, to their potential employers. Those in favor of a new name believed that it would give the university the opportunity to reach a tier one status, without being overshadowed by the UH main campus.

The renaming effort ultimately stalled, but only after UHD spent $49,500 on consulting services. Efforts to reach current UHD president, Bill Flores, proved unsuccessful as he was out of town. Stamats did not return calls or emails seeking comment…

(Featured photo credit: UHD.edu)

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