What’s in a name? Quite a bit, apparently.
After the death of Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Antonin Scalia, George Mason University was offered several charitable gifts totaling roughly $30 million dollars – the largest donation of its kind in the institution’s history, according to a statement released on the school’s website. However – there was one stipulation – GMU’s School of Law would have to be renamed in honor of the late conservative SCOTUS Justice.
For $30 million dollars, it would have been unthinkable for GMU to turn down the offer; the same statement referenced above lists three new scholarships to be funded with that money. However, the makeover of the school of law did not go quite as smoothly as anyone hoped.
Initially, GMU planned to call the school The Antonin Scalia School of Law and use the acronym ASSol for short.
And then Twitter caught wind of the whole thing and it all went down hill from there.
On March 31, GMU students, faculty and staff awoke to a barrage of tweets concerning the new name – or more precisely, the acronym. Almost a week later, the hashtag #ASSol is still thriving and numerous national media networks have covered the story.
This is in spite of the fact that GMU has since redubbed the already redubbed law school The Antonin Scalia Law School and given it another acronym. Tweeters do not seem mollified or deterred however, because #ASLS sounds a lot like “Assless” when read aloud.
As a George Mason University student who is studying public relations and journalism, I admit that I am rather disappointed in my school. In an era of hashtag acronym branding and prolific social media use, someone should have caught the gaffe and rethought that name and the acronym that came with it. This institution is responsible for teaching me and thousands of other communication majors the importance of branding and careful crafting of messages before they are sent to the public, and yet my university apparently could not take the advice of the professors working in its Communication Department.
However, I also think that it is important to note that – unfortunate acronym aside – there was no need for the magnitude of backlash that the name garnered. The acronym is not the reason that Mason’s law school has been renamed twice in the space of two weeks. The name and acronym needed to be changed again because people on twitter could not resist the urge to make juvenile butt jokes.
Of course, the name change will not be official until the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approves it.
Here’s to hoping that Mason’s school of law will not need to be renamed a third time.