11:34 AM

A Note from UHD Interim President Michael A. Olivas: What's in a Name?

As some of you know, my wife and I live at the University of Houston, in a campus apartment building that houses more than 900 UH faculty, staff, and students (who are 21 or older). Well, our current residence was among the facilities that made headlines the other day when a City of Houston water emergency impacted that institution. Of course, this was an inconvenience, but in the midst of UH emails informing the community about the matter, the message below struck me, and I want to bring it to everyone's attention:

UH Water Notice

The University of Houston Main Campus is presently experiencing discoloration of water in its facilities supplied by the City of Houston. As a precaution, until the City of Houston identifies the problem and ensures the water is safe for consumption, the University of Houston is recommending our campus community avoid drinking tap water on campus at this time. UH is coordinating with the City of Houston to flush the water system on campus to expedite removal of discoloration. Both the city and university are collecting water samples for testing and anticipate expedited results.

This was a responsible plan to deal with the emergency measure. Still, I became dismayed by one inaccurate fact in this message. Maybe it's just me … or perhaps it's because of my loyalty and devotion to the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD). Either way, this note exposes a larger problem.

Read the message again carefully. It refers to the University of Houston MAIN Campus. There is NO such campus. There is UH, UHD, UH-Clear Lake and UH-Victoria, all separate universities within the UH-System (UHS). If any of these institutions gets to call itself MAIN, it should be UHD, which is located at One Main St. I know this doesn't seem like a big deal to UH folks most of the time, but it matters to the UHD community. And if UH is in a big branding campaign, all of its internal units and public messages should use the correct institutional name, not UH Main, UH Main Campus UH Central, or any other variants.

Surprisingly, I also hear UHD folks inaccurately use the term MAIN in referring to our sister institution on Cullen Boulevard. I urge all of us not to fall into this linguistic trap or regress to the mean. UHD is its own university, and its community holds the keys to its future. We must forge our path on our own feet. Sure, we want to be good colleagues and contribute to scholarly and policy discussions, but we are not a branch campus.

We are the second largest university in what will soon be the third largest city in the United States.

I too will be more careful while advocating for this institution, and I hope you will do the same. UHS and for that matter, UH, will only be as strong as all of the system institutions. We are all in this together, and I trust you will agree with me that we will only improve and secure our future when we move ourselves forward. If we do not, who else will? Let's stop being the best-kept secret in Houston.