Trustees OK School of Speech name change

Becky Bowman

The School of Speech will soon be known as the School of Communication, after the Northwestern Board of Trustees approved a request for the name change at its June 17 meeting.

The change comes after several unsuccessful attempts to shift the name and nearly two years of discussions and votes within the school.

“The faculty, staff and students are all excited about the change,” said Dean Barbara O’Keefe, who worked for the change. “The (Board of Trustees) meeting was very upbeat.”

School of Communication was one of several names considered by school officials during the process, including School of Communication and Dramatic Arts; and School of Communication, Media and Performing Arts. Communication studies Prof. Irving Rein said he prefers the simplicity of the chosen name.

“In a society where everything is so quick and communication can be so brief … a simple name is a good one,” Rein said.

Rein, who served as chairman of a committee that worked on a name change in the early ’90s, added that although the name is simple, it reflects a broad sweep of the school’s curricula.

“‘Speech’ is too limited for what we do in the school,” he said. “(There are) just too many aspects of the school that reflect communication – not just speech.”

If the name better reflects the school’s offerings, students and parents will have a better idea of what to expect from the school, Rein said.

But some students expressed ambivalence about the decision.

“I don’t really think it makes much of a difference,” said Liam Castellan, a Speech junior. “Our reputation is more important than our name, and it’s not worth the cost of changing all the stationery.”

Castellan said alumni and administrators often have more time than students to think about things such as a school’s name. Some confusion might arise from the change, but probably not much, he said.

“It’s not like we’ll drop off the map,” he said.

Speech junior Danny Erdberg, however, said he was disappointed about the change.

“It’s just sad,” he said. “It’s the end of an era.”

Before the school began its 80-year stretch as the School of Speech, it was known as the School of Oratory and housed only a two-year program. Since then, departments such as theatre, radio-TV-film and communication sciences and disorders have been added.

By the 1960s, communication concentration areas began replacing speech concentration areas, Rein said. It was only a matter of time before the school would change its name, he said.

“Northwestern has had a distinguished reputation in communication for a long time, and this (name change) represents a natural progression in the importance of reflecting on the oral and written work (of the school),” he said.

University President Henry Bienen, who referred to the school as School of Communication at Friday’s commencement, wrote in an e-mail to The Summer Northwestern that the new name more accurately describes the school, but he does not expect the change to have a large impact on recruiting or fund- raising efforts.

The process has just begun, however, O’Keefe said. “It’s a large project. We’ll be working all summer,” she said.

The Summer Northwestern’s Adam Williams contributed to this report.