A New Name for Houston Baptist University?
Half a century after it was founded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas as “a Christian college of the highest order,” Houston Baptist University may soon erase the religious designation in its name.
Saying the “Baptist” label seems to be a barrier for many potential students, HBU officials are exploring a name change for the 51 year old school. As you might expect, not everyone is pleased by that prospect. Some say removing the word “Baptist” would de-emphasize the school’s religious identity and heritage.
Although a new name hasn’t been chosen, yet, one possibility that was mentioned at an HBU town hall meeting last week was “Morris Christian University,” after Stewart Morris, one of the school’s founders and a major donor.
At the same meeting, HBU board member Ray Cox Jr. argued that “the name Houston and the name Baptist are somewhat limiting to a national Christian university. … That’s why we are considering changing the name.”
Cox pointed to a study that showed many people “…are unable to see who we are as a university due to the name.” A name change “would break down those barriers, let down those barriers to see who we have been, who we are and who we will continue to be.”
The idea of changing HBU’s name has arisen several times over the years because Baptists make up a shrinking minority of the student body.
Only about one-third of HBU’s 2,500 students are Baptist. Last year, the university added three non-Baptists to the board of trustees, making HBU the first university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to allow non-Baptist trustees.
Here’s a telling clue as to why changing HBU’s name has suddenly become a major agenda item. The timing coincides with the school’s transition to the Southland Conference and the addition of football in 2014.
So there you have it. Once again, big time college sports has become the 800 pound gorilla controlling the decision making at many American colleges.