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ISSUE 121 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2008

Regents deserve honor, thanks

By Peter Meng
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 7, 2008

You may have heard that the Board of Regents recently approved the name of the new Science Center. It will be called the "Regents' Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences." Consequently, many have interpreted this move by the Board to be self-serving. This is not the case.

The Board of Regents is not a family. Instead, the Board consists of a group of at least 12 elected individuals who manage and direct the business affairs of the College. The Board also appoints college presidents and awards tenure to faculty. Many members are currently business executives or hold other highly-regarded positions in their fields.

Naming guidelines for buildings here at St. Olaf are indicative: "In many cases, the naming of a building or space is closely tied to the origin of the funding for the project and in many cases, the wishes of the donor or grantor may need consideration. The Board of Regents will approve all names for buildings, sites and major spaces." By approving a name for the new Science Center, the Regents have simply been following established procedures.

Contrary to public belief, the regents did not propose the name of the new science center. Instead, the natural sciences and math faculty recommended that the complex be named the "Regents' Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences." This recommendation was a way of thanking the regents for donating $21 out of the $33 million dollars needed to build the new science center.

So for those of you who are unhappy with the approved name of the new science center, here are some new ideas for the naming process.

Perhaps what some people want is a more neutral name. Names that simply indicate the purpose of the building without reference to donors would provide a sense of neutrality. Recently on a trip to Luther College, I noticed the simplicity in the names of several buildings -- Center for Faith and Learning, Center for the Arts. But these names are quite boring.

Recall that the guidelines for naming buildings at St. Olaf mention that the wishes of donors or grantors may need consideration. To be fair to all the donors, each should be given an equal chance to name the building. Since the regents donated roughly two-thirds of the money required for construction, two-thirds of the name for the science center should be determined by them.

The next highest donor would then be given a proportional choice. This process would continue until all parts of the name were determined in a fair manner. Unfortunately, this naming scheme is highly impractical.

Most students and faculty have already referred to the complex as the "new science center." Why not simply keep the name as it has been? Signs on the current science center could easily be modified to say "Old Science Center," just like what was done with the "Old Music Hall."

Everyone has probably been inside of Kildahl, Mohn or Boe Chapel several times. All of these buildings have been named after former presidents of the College. I'm sure that other presidents who haven't had a building named after them wouldn't mind having the new science center named in their honor.

But for the rest of the humble students on campus, the name chosen for the new science center seems appropriate. For the Regents who so generously donated the money necessary for construction, the least we can do is name a building after them.

Peter Meng '11 is from Rochester, Minn. He majors in chemistry and economics.

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