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Sticking it where the SUNY don't shine.... - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Sticking it where the SUNY don't shine....

Congress passed its first significant legislative support for public undergraduate education in 1862. The Morrill Act of that year enabled states to found and fund universities that, per Wikipedia, would "focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering (though 'without excluding ... classical studies'), as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class."

This statute, and its sponsor, are memorialized on the campus of one of my alma maters, Cornell University, by its oldest continuous-use building, Morrill Hall- as Cornell became the prime New York beneficiary of Washington's largesse for almost a century.  MIT is another prestigious institution that benefited from that Morrill Majority of funds; and in New Jersey, the existing Rutgers University became the ex-post-facto designee of the funding. Still, Morrill is the origin of many of today's University of X and/or Y State University and/or Z A&M College, which you know more from box scores than from Nobel Prize listings.

Meanwhile, until 1948, New York's only other entry into public education was in the field of "normal schools"- institutions modeled on nunneries rather than universities, set in remote backwaters of the state from Fredonia to Geneseo to Cortland to even Albany- where, according to former teacher Robert Klein, the future schoolmarms "graduated in two years, took religion and first aid, were handed a large black dress and Boy Scout shoes, and [were sent] into schools to say, 'NO TALKING!'"

That was the state of New York public collegiate education two years after my sister was born. With the GI Bill and other pressures on the Lej, they regenerated these institutions, while founding and taking over others, and formed the State University of New York, a multi-campus organization with a much broader mission. Albany's normal school, Syracuse University's Binghamton affiliate (Harpur College), and, eventually, the 100-plus year private University of Buffalo got folded in under the SUNY umbrella....

which, from an identity and marketing standpoint, rather sucked.

When I applied to colleges, including my final choice of Cornell's non-SUNY English department, the State University brand was troubled, at best. Only SUNY Binghamton was regarded as a serious undergraduate institution; the other three "university centers" (fully fledged research uni campuses granting doctoral degrees on down) ranged from too-new (Stony Brook) to too-state (Albany) to too-confusing (Buffalo, known then as SUNYAB, to distinguish it from the former, always-public Buffalo State campus on Elmwood Avenue). Four years later, I matriculated at SUNYAB as a law student, the only place in the state at the time which had public law school funding, but everyone here called it "UB Law School." Everyone, that is, except the school itself, which used SUNY-based acronyms on everything from our acceptance letters to our degrees.

By the 90s, though, popular usage had won out, and both the entire campus and the law school had caught up with reality, embracing their "UB"-ness. Everything from road signs to logos referenced "University at Buffalo" rather than the SUNYgobbletygookety. Elsewhere round the state, other campuses asserted their identities: SUNY Albany was now "UAlbany." Nearer my sister, "Binghamton University" became the accepted moniker for the onetime Harpur College, later "SUNY Binghamton" (I still remember seeing the road sign with that name past the still-standing "Harpur College" stanchion around 1968 and saying, "Sunny Binghamton? But it's CLOUDY!") Other former normal-school campuses got their own identities, from "the College at Brockport" northwest of Rochester, to "FRED" as the back-bumper-oval designation of the one time SUNY Fredonia.

And everyone knew who they were.... until they didn't.


Somehow, in the past year or so, UB has lost its way, or at least its B. At the uni level, it seems determined to TARDIS its way back into state history and become "New York University," or at least "New York State," in the way that Kansas, and Oklahoma, and Ohio have branded their publicly funded campuses. Behold the current uniform logos of YOUR University at Buffalo Bulls:

And closer to my own heart, the fundraising pitches, employment bulletins and alumni magazines no longer come from UB Law School but from SUNY Buffalo Law School.  I was never asked about this branding change, but finally got my two cents in earlier today in response to their year-end hitting-me-up for money:

Dear SUNY Buffalo Law:

I really don't know why you're contacting me. I've never heard of you people.

Rather, I am a proud graduate of the University at Buffalo Law School. Founded in Buffalo in 1887, later merged into the even older and more historic University of Buffalo, it for years took pride in its heritage and place at the forefront of jurisprudence in Western New York. When I attended, the school's reputation was suffering from a later, more unfortunate merger with a behemoth of a bureaucracy, but in time it overcame that and became universally known in official, promotional and marketing materials as what everybody already called it: UB Law School.

For years, I read and enjoyed the UB Law Forum. Somehow that publication has ceased to exist, and someone (presumably the senders of this email) have been sending me a knockoff publication called "SUNY Buffalo Law Forum" that goes straight to the recycling.  I bristle at the inherent association with undergraduate party schools and Central Administration cuts and demands which are necessary components of this apparent attempt to "rebrand."

It's certainly not coming from the top, because other places of excellence within the public university realms in this state are allowed, even encouraged, to assert their own identities. Binghamton University; UAlbany; The College at Brockport; and, of course, Cornell University, the original State University, which somehow has resisted the pressure to market itself to alumni of its statutory colleges as "SUNY Ithaca."

At least you haven't completely obliterated Buffalo from your efforts, as the athletic department seems determined to do in ITS foolish attempt to dress its sports teams as if they were representing New York University.  (Hint: NYU doesn't have Division I athletics. It
does have a law school, which I got waitlisted at. Nobody's going to confuse you with them, either.)

So please remove me from these mailing lists as long as they reference an institution which isn't as proud of itself as I've always been of it

No response from the Development Office yet- although they probably are still spinning their wheels over whether their Manhattan and Bronx alumni would be more offended if they dared to change things back to where they belong.

2 comments or Leave a comment
symian From: symian Date: December 20th, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great letter. Loved it! :)

I often used to get letters from the places I went to school asking for money. I never sent them any. I paid to go there, graduated, and it has been long since anyone considered my educational past as relevant. I learned most of my skill-set and bag of tricks after I left school. A lot of what I learned in school was ideological rather than practical. I found that in the real world of work there wasn't time to do what they taught me, nor were other people the moral rocks that the school had wanted me to become.

I paid to go there. Why would I continue to give them money after I graduated? They provided a service, I paid for it, and that's it. I don't send Samsung money for the TV I paid for and still use. That would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? Same thing, different name. ;)

Edited at 2013-12-20 01:26 pm (UTC)
greenquotebook From: greenquotebook Date: December 21st, 2013 04:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Love, love, love it!
2 comments or Leave a comment