Hays Students, staff and alumni at Fort Hays State University are banding together to oppose a proposed name change that university officials say is still under discussion.
One group of opponents has circulated a petition, gathering the signatures of about 250 students who are against renaming the college the University of Western Kansas.
"Once we heard there was going to be a push, we knew we wanted to stop it, and we had to take action quick," said university student Kristina Krones, one of the petition's original signers. "Fort Hays is who we are. We came to Fort Hays because we love the heritage behind it."
A petition group on the social-networking Web site Facebook has also formed. It calls itself "We are Fort Hays State University! Not the University of Western Kansas!" and had nearly 1,100 members as of Wednesday.
University President Edward Hammond said that the name change proposal is in the "very, very embryonic stages" and that students and university officials still have time to discuss the issue before a decision is made.
"I'm glad to see that students are weighing their opinions," Hammond said.
At Kansas University - also referred to as the University of Kansas - there's a lot of surprise but not much concern over the potential change.
Chancellor Robert Hemenway pointed out that several universities in Missouri have changed names recently. Among those, Central Missouri State University became the University of Central Missouri.
"It's not unusual for universities to consider a name change like that," Hemenway said. "The thing for KU to do is to do the same thing we do every day. We get up every morning and think about our responsibility to be the university for the entire state of Kansas."
Hemenway said KU wasn't worried how a name change at Fort Hays could affect KU.
The name change was initially recommended in a report passed by a committee reviewing the university's structure. Talk of a name change evolved from a debate over Fort Hays State no longer being a military establishment.
Also, the report says, "Fort Hays State University carries little geographic representation in an era that requires institutions to focus on their brand, their essence and their image."
The report included several other proposals.
Chris Crawford, assistant provost for quality management and a member of the committee that passed the name change proposal, said he was not surprised by the student reaction.
"There are going to be varying levels of emotion on this topic," he said. "The best argument against it is tradition. But if the students interested in maintaining the status quo hear the other side of the argument, I would hope they would be persuaded."
The university unsuccessfully tried changing its name to University of Western Kansas in the late 1980s.