Monday, November 21, 2011

How Many Ways Can You Jumble “Denver,” “State” and “University”?

How an institute of higher education created free publicity by prolonging the renaming process

This is a stroke of genius. Knowing that there are few newsworthy stories at this time of the year, the leaders of the Metropolitan State College of Denver (MSCD) have decided to create free publicity for the university by deliberately ruffling the feathers of the University of Denver and by prolonging their renaming process.

The process to change MSCD’s name is not a new one. The Denver Post ran a story on it on a slow news day in April.

Here are some facts which constrain and affect the renaming of MSCD:

  1. The University of Colorado system already has a Denver campus (University of Colorado at Denver).
  2. There already exists a University of Denver (and it is a good school, but more on that later).
  3. There is also a Colorado State University in Fort Collins, 70 miles north of Denver.
  4. MSCD’s leadership believes that non-Coloradans don’t know the location of the university because it’s more commonly known as Metro State College (“Which metro area?!”).
  5. Apparently, people who are unfamiliar with MSCD tend to think that the “College” in MSCD’s name suggests that it may be a two-year college, which it is NOT.
  6. It is important to retain the word “State” in the university’s name to reflect the affordability of tuition.

Hence the leaders of MSCD have decided to play with the words “Denver,” “State” and “University”.


Theoretically, there are only six permutations of names one can come up with if the words in the phrase can’t be repeated. (For you nerds out there, it’s “3 x 2 x 1 = 6.”)

Even though six permutations of the name exist theoretically, some of them won’t make sense. Here are the six:

  1. Denver State University
  2. Denver University State (x)
  3. State University Denver
  4. State Denver University (x)
  5. University Denver State (x)
  6. University State Denver (x) 
Of the six, #1 has been struck down because of opposition by the University of Denver. Permutation #2 doesn’t make sense grammatically, even if one adds prepositions such as “at” or “of” (which are common among institutes of higher education) to the name.

Permutation #3 will work with the use of “at” or “of” in the name (i.e. State University of Denver; State University at Denver), but there’s no guarantee that the University of Denver will not raise a ruckus again.

Permutation #4 works grammatically with the use of the preposition “of” in the name (i.e. State of Denver University), but it won’t make sense because Denver is a city, not a state. Permutations #5 and #6 simply don’t make sense any way one looks at it.

If one throws “Colorado” into the mix, one can substantially increase the number of permutations, thus increasing the number of choices of names. With four words (i.e. Colorado, Denver, State, and University), one can theoretically come up with 24 possible new names for MSCD. (Again, for the nerds, it is “4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 24.”)

  1. Colorado Denver State University*
  2. Colorado Denver University State (x)
  3. Colorado State Denver University (x)
  4. Colorado State University Denver (x)
  5. Colorado University Denver State (x)
  6. Colorado University State Denver (x)

  1. Denver Colorado State University*
  2. Denver Colorado University State (x)
  3. Denver University Colorado State (x)
  4. Denver University State Colorado (x)
  5. Denver State Colorado University (x)
  6. Denver State University Colorado (x)

  1. State Colorado Denver University (x)
  2. State Colorado University Denver (x)
  3. State Denver Colorado University (x)
  4. State Denver University Colorado (x)
  5. State University Colorado Denver*
  6. State University Denver Colorado*

  1. University Colorado Denver State (x)
  2. University Colorado State Denver (x)
  3. University Denver Colorado State (x)
  4. University Denver State Colorado (x)
  5. University State Colorado Denver (x)
  6. University State Denver Colorado (x)

Among the 24 permutations, only four are useable. Again, #1 ("Colorado Denver State University") may face opposition by the University of Denver because it’s not too different from the Denver State University name that they so vehemently oppose. Permutation #7 (“Denver Colorado State University”) works but Colorado State University in Fort Collins may oppose it.

Permutation #17 works as “State University of Colorado at Denver,” similar to how the State University of New York (SUNY) system names its campuses. However, it may face opposition from the University Of Colorado at Denver. Permutation #18 works as the “State University at Denver, Colorado,” but almost no one names universities that way.

So we’re back to square one.


What is wrong with the name “University of Central Colorado,” which they have previously thought of, as mentioned in the Denver Post article in April? Isn’t it obvious that there is some publicity stunt involved here, especially since MSCD backed down so easily after the University of Denver objected?

MSCD’s leaders seem to think that leaving the “Metropolitan” in the institution’s name will give the University of Denver less reason to object to their new name. That begs the question: So why not “Denver-Aurora State University”, since the metropolitan area is formally known as the Denver-Aurora-Boulder is the official name of the metropolitan area as given by the United States Census Bureau?

While MSCD is at it, they may as well ruffle the feathers of other better ranked universities to milk more publicity by suggesting a name change similar to them:

  1. Colorado State University at Denver
  2. Denver Colorado State University
  3. State University of Denver
  4. Colorado Denver State University

The first two “options” will invoke protests from Colorado State University (“There is only one CSU and it is in Fort Collins!!!”) and the last two will provoke objections from the University of Denver once again (“Still too similar to Denver State University!!!!”).


Even though the renaming of MSCD gives the institution a rare chance to be mentioned in the mainstream media, I suggest not getting the name change over and done with quickly though, for the following reasons:

  1. Name changes are expensive. The Qwest-Century Link merger earlier this year cost millions in the changing of signs alone. Of course, Century Link serves a much bigger region and has more assets, but it will still be a costly exercise for MSCD regardless.

  1. Brand-building takes time. The sooner it starts, the better.

  1. Changing of the university’s name affects many stakeholders. Potential students may not want to go to a “new” school whose name is not known; current students may not want to graduate from a “new” school whose name is not known among potential employers; employees have to be deployed to consult the different stakeholders on what they think of the proposed new names; published and printed materials (shirts, banners, letterheads, corporate gifts etc) will immediately become obsolete, so offices and departments may not order large quantities at once and take advantage of large-order discount; email addresses will change, causing students, professors and other employees to lose opportunities etc. All these are troublesome, and may take a toll on students’ and employees’ morale.

When MSCD is done with its publicity stunt, may I suggest the following choices for its new name:

  1. City University of Denver
  2. Mile High State University
  3. Denver-Aurora State University (as explained above)

Option #1 is similar to how the City University of Hong Kong and the campuses in the City University of New York (CUNY) system name themselves.

Denver is known as the Mile-High City, as noted in the “Nicknames” subsection of the third and last part of the “What Makes a “Real” City?” series. Option #2 definitely fits within the constraints of renaming MSCD.

Or perhaps MSCD should just go with “University of Central Colorado.”

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1 comment:

  1. This post proves that you are bored! Someone, please, give this Cheong guy a challenge!