What's in a Name

My colleague Chris Swope is an unabashed fan of naming rights -- letting corporations slap their names and sometimes logos on everything from stadiums to ...
by | July 20, 2007

My colleague Chris Swope is an unabashed fan of naming rights -- letting corporations slap their names and sometimes logos on everything from stadiums to fire squad helicopters. I recognize that there's no stopping this trend, but still feel there should be some trepidation about converting public spaces into semi-private ones.

Latest example: Faculty at the University of Iowa College of Public Health initially turned down $15 million worth of naming money from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. They thought renaming their college after one major player in the health field could lead to conflicts of interest in their research. (Wellmark is easily Iowa's largest health insurance provider.)

But university fundraising being what it is, Interim President Gary Fethke brokered a compromise. The school now looks on track to be called the Wellmark College of Public Health. The money, after all, is coming from the Wellmark Foundation, not directly from the insurance company.

By dropping the Blues, the U of I narrowly averts the distinction of being one of the first colleges in the nation to name an academic unit after a corporation. I'm sure others will line up eagerly for such a fate.

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