... The Battle for a Name ...
After years of achievement and leadership in higher education and five years of planning and lobbying, UL President Dr. Ray Authement was rewarded for his determination on April 27, 1984 as the Board of Trustees for State Colleges and Universities voted by a 17-1 margin to drop the "Southwestern" from USL's name. On that date, the University of Southwestern Louisiana became THE University of Louisiana.
By that time, USL's name had become a hindrance to further advancement and improvement among universities. UL had outgrown its double-directional name. UL's enrollment was at 16,000 students, which made it one of the two largest schools in the three-state region of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. It was a comprehensive university and had students from all 50 states and 100 countries enrolled. UL lead the state in professional and certification exams in many fields including engineering, nursing, and education. The University of Louisiana had received national recognition for their computer science program and was a charter member of NCAA Division I-A Football.
The name didn't last long, however, as traditional Louisiana university politics, with its long history of paranoia and infighting, became a factor. Some administrators at other state schools worried that UL's new name would diminish their image. According to Baton Rouge's Morning Advocate, LSU Chancellor James H. Wharton said he is concerned that "the new name will result in the university's expansion" (April 28, 1984). Ironically, the arguments against UL had a familiar ring since they were used in 1960 when Southwestern Louisiana Institute upgraded to university status and became the University of Southwestern Louisiana.
In May of 1984, the Board Regents, with the strong support of powerful LSU backers on and off the Board, took the issue to district court, asserting that only the Louisiana Legislature could rename state universities. They won as District Judge William H. Brown agreed with the plaintiffs and stripped the University of Louisiana of its new name. Although Judge Brown was an alumnus of LSU, and an active supporter of that school, he did not recuse himself from the case despite this apparent conflict of interest. He ruled against the name change despite clear constitutional language confirming both the name change and the way it was handled, despite an opinion from the State Attorney General, and despite the legal precedent of other state schools who had changed their names through the same course of action. For example, when LSUNO changed its name to UNO, it only received approval from the LSU Board of Supervisors. UL, however, was ordered to revert to USL on May 22, 1984 and Louisiana remained only one of two states to not have a University of State. Soon after and in specific response to this case, the state legislature changed state law to require that only the legislature could change the name of state colleges and universities.
Since USL had outgrown its double-directional name, the fight was not over for a name that was and is more reflective of the University's accomplishments, achievements, and stature. Since the class of 1984 graduated with University of Louisiana diplomas, the vision was realized and the goal was set. Attempts at appeal were unsuccessful as the Louisiana Supreme Court refused to hear the case in October of 1986.
It took until 1995 for the Louisiana State Legislature to agree to allow the change. But, passage of Act 45 required a compromise that became known as the "LSU Rule." The LSU Rule required that at least two state universities change their name at the same time. It required that all universities who change their name change it to "University of Louisiana at [city designation]." It stipulated that the city designation must be used in all official university business and has since grown far beyond its original legislative language, to regulate minute details such as font sizes to be used by the respective universities. Additionally, the bill insisted that LSU was, and would remain, the "flagship university" of Louisiana. This was odd for a legislative act that had absolutely no bearing on LSU or the LSU System. Finally, that act changed the name of the Board of Trustees to the "University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors."
Initially, it looked like Northeast Louisiana University would make the new name a reality, but they hesitated and stalled.
Finally, in 1999 Northeast's Lawson Swearingen agreed to the name change. Ironically, as a Monroe area representative in the legislature back in 1984, he was one of the more vocal opponents of USL's name change. The Board of Regents and the UL Board of Supervisors finally approved the name change in late August 1999. USL became the University of Louisiana (UL) at Lafayette and NLU became the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM).
USL officials decided to make it official at the Centennial Spectacular kicking off the yearlong celebration of the university's 100th birthday. University of Louisiana was now a reality.
UL Lafayette ("LOUISIANA"), similar to UC Berkeley ("CALIFORNIA"), UT Knoxville ("TENNESSEE"), UA Fayetteville ("ARKANSAS"), UNC Chapel Hill ("NORTH CAROLINA"), and UT Austin ("TEXAS"), among others, is the largest and oldest of the schools that share the same name. Fortunately, the legislative law regarding the name change only applies to university and state employees. This state policy does not govern UL alumni, supporters, other universities, and certainly not the autonomy of the press. This leaves the door open for UL UL to be commonly and popularly known as LOUISIANA, while maintaining the official name.
The goal is not to become the state's flagship university per se, as that position is held by Louisiana State University and A&M College at Baton Rouge. The goal is to provide excellence in education and community service to the Acadiana area as well as the entire state of Louisiana. Competition fosters excellence.
In 1991, UL became the state's first Doctoral II institution, which means it awards a high number of doctoral degrees and has a significant research agenda. This designation elevated the university to the ranks of Georgia Tech, Louisville, Clemson, William & Mary, and the University of Mississippi. Since that time, UL has continued to advance rapidly by implementing selective admissions, raising over $75 million in privately held assets, and earning an all-time high of nearly $30 million in R & D funding. Additionally, UL now offers 108 degrees in 10 colleges and schools.
UL hosts three active research parks including the New Iberia Research Center, one of the largest primate centers in the United States & home of nationally renowned researcher, Dr. Daniel Povinelli. This UL professor is winner of one eight $1,000,000 McDonnell "Millennium Grants." Another center of research is the University Research Park that hosts the National Wetlands Center, National Marine Fisheries Center, and a state-funded robotics & virtual reality center. Other tenants include the NASA Regional Application Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In progress include a University Hotel and a 3-D/4-D seismic research facility. The third is the "Cade Farm," a 600-acre agricultural research facility in nearby St. Martin parish, which is an international leader in crawfish research and renewable resources.
NOTE: This page is done independently of and without the endorsement or permission of the University of Louisiana. It is intended to give users a background view of Louisiana's long battle for their rightful name. Thanks to the many individuals who contributed to this project