UT-Rio Grande Valley, University of Texas-South, and UT-Pan American Top Three Names to be Decided on Thursday by UT Regents

By David A. Diaz

CAP

Featured, from left are Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., Chancellor of the UT System, Ernest Aliseda of McAllen, a member of the UT System Board of Regents, and Brenda Pejovich of Dallas, a member of the UT System Board of Regents.
Photo Credit: Josue Esparza

A new name for the South Texas university that is being created with the merger of the University of Texas-Pan American and the University of Texas-Brownsville could be decided in Austin on Thursday, December 12 by the UT System Board of Regents, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.

The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley seems to be the most popular name, based on input from South Texans, followed by the University of Texas-South. Keeping the name of UT-Pan American is a distant third.

Those three proposed names top the list of recommendations from the public, according to an assessment by Pedro Reyes, Ph.D., Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Barry McBee, J.D., Vice Chancellor and Chief Governmental Relations Officer, for the UT System.

However, in the background on this issue posted on the agenda for Thursday’s UT System Board of Regents meeting, there are no figures listed to document which names received how many votes.

Regardless, the nine-member regents are being asked to choose the name from those three selections, which are described in UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., as being “the most descriptive and popular recommendations.”

In an e-mail to South Texas legislators, Laura S. Hartmann, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Office of Governmental Relations for the UT System, said the decision on the name should take place around 10:00 on Thursday morning.

On Monday, November 11, the UT System released five possible names, along with proposed logos, for the new South Texas university, which will include a UT medical school with a major presence in Edinburg.

Those initial proposed names were The University of Texas for the Americas, The University of Texas Las Americas, The University of Texas International, The University of Texas South, and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Once the final name is decided, the logo and school colors will be chosen by the new university president, who has yet to be selected by the UT System Board of Regents, again with input from students and Valley residents. The school color must have a shade of orange, according to UT System rules.

In his published remarks to the regents, Cigarroa stated that he concurs in the recommendation by Reyes and McBee that the Board of Regents consider and authorize the name of the new University of Texas in South Texas from one of the three most descriptive and popular recommendations described below.

According to the background in the UT System agenda packet on the naming issue:

General response to names proposed by UT System:

  1. The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley presently appears to be the most popular choice among students, staff and community members. Those who support this name say it will bring pride to the Rio Grande Valley, and it makes the most sense, considering the geographic area the university represents and the fact that the names of existing UT institutions all have geographic names. This name also received additional support from several South Texas legislators.
  2. Another popular choice is The University of Texas-South. Those who like the name say it is a short name that packs a lot of power and sounds prestigious.
  3. There is some support for keeping UT-Pan American (UTPA) as the name. Some noted that this name is not limited to a specific area and that UT Brownsville was once a branch campus of UTPA.

Other UT System-proposed names such as UT for the Americas and UT International received modest levels of support.

With approval of a name for the new University of Texas in South Texas, options will remain open to offer namings associated with negotiated gifts for the new medical school and various colleges and schools that will comprise the university.

Background Information

The Project South Texas “What’s in a Name?” campaign was created by the Office of External Relations as an invitation to the community to engage in a dialogue about the name of the new UT System institution. Community members were encouraged to submit comments on five proposed names or to propose their own original ideas for names via Twitter, Facebook, email, and phone.

Details about the proposed names and instructions for participating were provided on the UT System website and through a five-minute video produced in both English and Spanish. The Office of External Relations reached out extensively to the public via all English and Spanish media outlets in South Texas as well as to The University of Texas at Brownsville and The University of Texas-Pan American student, faculty, and staff communities.

The campaign was launched on Monday, November 11 and ended on Friday, December 6. During the campaign, the naming video was viewed by almost 8,600 individuals, and more than 3,600 individuals submitted additional comments and suggestions via email, social media and phone. A Twitter chat was held on the last day of the campaign to further engage the community.

In addition, sign-up sheets were distributed, with assistance from a graduate student at UT-Pan American, at several community centers in colonias throughout the Rio Grande Valley so that Spanish-speaking residents without access to technology could provide handwritten feedback on suggested names. That handwritten feedback was gathered and sent to UT System.

Numerous media outlets, including print English-and Spanish-speaking publications, throughout the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas have given positive coverage to the campaign. The San Antonio Express-News ran a front page story about the campaign, several publications have published supportive editorials, and the McAllen Monitor is conducting its own online poll. The UT System’s Office of External Relations also worked directly with Spanish broadcast stations along the border to publicize the campaign and garner feedback.

Campaign data:

Video – A video to provide history, context, and information about how to participate has been viewed by almost 8,300 individuals to date. The Spanish version of the video has received almost 270 views.

Facebook – Numerous posts about the campaign and proposed names reached more than 22,000 people and have garnered almost 2,400 comments. Over the course of the campaign thus far, posts related to the naming have generated more than 3,884 “likes,” comments, and “shares.” Posts have prompted thoughtful dialogue and have provided a forum for significant discussion among users about the suggested names. Additionally, various alternative names and logo ideas have been provided through this medium of engagement.

Twitter – More than 500 people have weighed in via Twitter using #ProjectSouthTX. One high school student reported results of an informal poll at her school: “My classes at Edinburg High School voted: 52-UTRGV, 48-UTSouth, 8-UTI and 1-UTAmericas.”

Email – Approximately 600 people have sent emails to ProjectSouthTX@utsystem.edu.
Telephone – More than 150 people left voice-mails on the dedicated Project South Texas phone line at 512-499-4473.