As names go, the University of Missouri-Kansas City doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It’s clunky, and the “Kansas City” part comes across as an afterthought.
The University of Kansas City, on the other hand, has a nice, clean ring. It conveys a sense of place.
And a sense of responsibility.
UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton is floating the idea of asking the UM System Board of Curators to allow his university to return to its original name, the University of Kansas City, while remaining part of the four-campus UM System.
Mayor Sly James likes the idea.
We say, go for it.
Despite all protests to the contrary, sticking with the current name will forever suggest that Kansas City’s public university is a branch campus of MU in Columbia.
It is not. UMKC is a self-contained university with schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, a law school, a conservatory of music and dance and an up-and-coming school of business that is different from anything offered in Columbia.
But it is also a school that owes its survival to its inclusion in the UM System. As a private institution, the University of Kansas City was chronically short of funds from its creation in 1933 until its rebirth as a public university in 1963. Coming under the UM System’s umbrella meant access to state funding and a much larger pool of prospective students.
UMKC still benefits from being part of the state’s university system, but the rewards have diminished. Missouri politicians have chosen to ignore obvious sources of revenue and to starve most of the state’s important functions, especially higher education. Investing in the quality of colleges and universities has not been a priority for more than a decade.
Despite that handicap, UMKC has made strides in recent years. It has found strong and stable leadership, boosted its credentials as a residential campus and achieved recognition for achievements in its business school, conservatory and medical programs.
It also has established its own fundraising entity, the UMKC Foundation.
With a solid structure in place, the university has the potential to raise more private funds and rely less on measly state appropriations. A name change could help with that.
Renaming the school the University of Kansas City would put Kansas Citians on the hook for supporting the school financially and otherwise. A first-class city can ill afford to have a second-rate university sharing its name.
Kansas City is and should remain a part of the UM System. But it is ready for a stronger identity as the University of Kansas City.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.