MANATEE — Manatee Community College’s new name — the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota — isn’t striking the right chord with some in the community.
Former staff and alumni of the college are unhappy with the choice of the new name and mascot and at how quickly the decision was made.
The college’s board of trustees say they acted swiftly to get the name before state lawmakers to get it codified before the legislative session ends next week.
The decision by college officials to change the name and mascot was made shortly after the state Board of Education approved the school’s offering of a four-year nursing degree.
On Friday, the new name cleared the Senate and is pending approval by the House.
Those upset with the name change said they wished board members would have held a community discussion about the name before it was voted on. Board members changed the college’s nickname from “Lancers” to the “Manatees.”
“Like most people I was surprised at the changes,” said Harry Kinnan, a Manatee County school board member and former MCC basketball coach for 26 years. “I do understand that they are offering a baccalaureate degree and feel the need to change the name. I would have hoped they would have explained it just a little bit better about it to the community.”
Former State Sen. Ed Price, who helped secure $400,000 in state funding to build the college in 1959, said he didn’t like the fact the college did away with the word “Manatee.”
“My only concern is twofold,” Price said. “One, they should have given the community a chance to give input on this before they made the change. Two, retain the name ‘Manatee.’ Some of the other community colleges in Florida made the same change but just eliminated the word ‘community.’ ”
Kathy Walker, spokeswoman for the college, said the idea of the name change was discussed in a public board meeting on March 25. It wasn’t an item on the agenda but a board member inquired about the name change during board comments.
Since it was not an agenda item, the inquiry was not reflected in the meeting’s minutes, Walker said. But during the meeting, Chairman Steve Harner directed MCC President Lars Hafner to look into the matter.
Between the March meeting and the one in April, Hafner contacted each member of the board directly to talk about the name change, Walker said. During the April meeting, each board member had a say and as a group voted 6-1 on the name. Board member Christine Robinson was against it.
Days after that, the change was submitted to state lawmakers to be included in legislation.
“It was deemed optimal and desirable to go ahead and get that done,” Walker said.
The name reflects the new status of the college and the fact that the college serves both Manatee and Sarasota counties, college officials said.
The State College of Florida was picked because many of the regional monikers that included the words Gulf Coast or Southwest Florida were already in use, Walker said.
“I am glad that most people we heard from understand that and are excited, too,” she said.
Brigette McCarthy was among those who loved the name. She is surprised to hear from those who didn’t like it. Some of the colleges that have changed their names, such as St. Petersburg College, find that the names are limiting, she thinks.
“Honestly, I believe the name really sets the college up for the future in terms of offering four-year programs,” McCarthy said. “It’s a broad enough name, it doesn’t limit the college in terms of region.”
But alumni such as Kenny Hawkins disagree. Hawkins lives in Brandon now, but still keeps up with news of his former college.
He was aghast to learn of the change and immediately fired off indignant e-mails to board members and his friends, he said.
“I think they are throwing away 52 years of tradition and community for sake of appeasing a few people in Sarasota. Folks I talk to in Sarasota say they think the name change is silly also, Hawkins said.
“This is done within a short time without consulting anybody in the community. Something doesn’t feel right when there is no public discourse to change the name.”
This isn’t the first time the college has gone through a name change. Manatee Junior College was established in 1957. In 1985, it became Manatee Community College.
Even then, there was some community resistance to the name, said Greg Porges, attorney for the college’s board of trustees since 1971.
“There was a period of resistance,” he said.
The college will formally start using the name July 1. Hafner has emphasized to college employees that they should use existing inventories of letterhead and forms with the “MCC” logo and not rush to replace them immediately.
“It will start showing up between now and July 1 (sometimes alongside the MCC name) as we begin phasing in the implementation, expected to take anywhere from a few months to a year,” Walker said.
— Herald Staff Writer Sara Kennedy contributed to this report.