A little less than a week ago, the University administration decided to drop a bomb on us. The College of Arts and Sciences, the oldest and most distinguished of all the schools present on campus, was finally getting a name. While most people were trying to figure out what our new acronym would be (MCAS is my personal favorite), I was trying to figure out why? Why would now be a good time to grant A&S a name, and why was this Mr. Morrissey being granted that privilege? (Truth be told, I was waiting to become a billionaire so that I could donate a bunch of money and have them name some big new building after me.)
Digging a little deeper, it seems that the trend of naming the schools has only started recently. The first school to be christened was the School of Management, which was nameless for 51 years before being dedicated to Wallace Carroll in 1989 after a $10 million donation. Next was the School of Education, dedicated to the Lynch family in 2000 after another $10 million donation. The most recent was the School of Nursing, dedicated in 2003 after another $10 million donation from the late industrialist William Connell.
A lot of money went into each of these schools, and there should be no doubt that a lot of money is probably going into A&S now. But does a name change actually mean anything?
Stayer Hall was dedicated in 2012, in recognition of another BC alumnus’ hard work and dedication. Three years later, more often than not you will find people referring to it as the Gate, especially if those people are upperclassmen. The name was changed, there was a big ceremony with all the bells and whistles, and what did it amount to? Not that much, as people don’t refer to it by its appointed name, nor do students care about what Ralph Stayer has done for the University. And as awful as that sounds, it is a theme that can probably be traced to most buildings on campus.
Unless you stop and read the plaques outside of the building or look up the story on the BC website, which is actually a lot harder than you think, most people probably don’t know why a building was named the way it was. And to be fair, why would anyone expect them to care that Devlin was named after the 15th president of the school, William J. Devlin? They have a midterm to cram for, a new love interest to stalk on Facebook, or a themed party to plan. In the daily hustle and bustle that is college life, these names simply become fun facts that you can tell your friends and family to impress them.
But as uninterested as BC students may be in the naming practices of the University, it is important not to forget the importance that a name carries. It seems odd to me that for a religious institution, only one of our schools is dedicated to someone with any religious background. Or that the naming practice for academic buildings and dorms seems to have shifted from recognizing prominent religious figures to recognizing those who have donated the largest amount of money. I am no way trying to demean the work that each of these amazing individuals has done, and am actually incredibly grateful since it is their hard work and philanthropy that has allowed me to be here. They have supplied the money for the scholarship that I am currently on, and will hopefully continue to be on.
But at what point has BC shifted to handing out the dedication of a building in exchange for the biggest check? I can not begin to imagine the amount of money it takes to keep this school fully functioning, and it is obviously beneficial to obtain private donations from alumni in order to keep the school running. But why must the religious pride be lost; why must we sacrifice our proud Jesuit heritage in exchange for the promise of continued funding?
Going forward, it remains to be seen whether any of the other schools will be dedicated, and if so, then whom they are dedicated to. I am also waiting to see who finally decides to sponsor 90 and have their name put on it. A donation to this school is a statement of intent from our alumni that they believe in the mission statement that they were taught under, and want others to have the same experience, if not better. We should not allow the pursuit of greater donations to become a deciding factor in the practices of our University, dangling the promise of a building in exchange for money. As we all adjust to our name change, hopefully we attempt to reach out and thank Mr. Morrissey for his incredible service and leadership over the past 30 years.