Westminster President and Board Vote to Remain Westminster College
Commencement Surprise: President Announces School Will Remain Westminster College
June 2, 2007
Westminster College President Michael Bassis made a surprise announcement at the school’s commencement exercises held earlier today that, following months of deliberation, the Board of Trustees has unanimously voted to retain the name Westminster College and not change to “Westminster University.” The decision followed the recommendation President Bassis made to the Board of Trustees at their meeting on Friday. The announcement came as a welcome surprise to the 667 graduates gathered for commencement who had expressed a strong sentiment for the school to retain the name college.
Bassis explained his decision, “Based on the research we did and the input we received, I believe that “college”—with all that term implies about an intensely personal, student-centered learning environment—most adequately captures Westminster’s distinctive value and appeal. I recommended to the Board that we retain our status as a college. They agreed. And so, Westminster College we will remain.”
As to why Westminster underwent the process of exploring a possible name change, Bassis remarked, “Like many institutions with long histories, Westminster has evolved and changed in a number of important ways since its founding more than 132 years ago. As we have become a more complex and forward looking learning community, it has become more challenging to find the terminology that fully captures the experience that Westminster offers. In terms of categories, we clearly possess some characteristics of a college: a residential campus environment, small classes, personalized attention to our students. But we also exhibit some features of a university: graduate and professional programs, non-traditional and commuting students, and an emphasis on practical experience as well as theoretical knowledge; that is why we felt obligated to explore whether “college” or “university” best describes our campus today.”
Bassis had convened a task force to consider all facets of this issue earlier this year. In a split decision, the task force recently recommended that Westminster change its name to university. The task force noted that there were compelling arguments for both remaining college and for switching to university. Subsequent to the task force recommendation, the college held several open forums during which students, alumni, faculty and other members of the campus community were able to directly express their views directly to both the President and the Board. While Bassis ultimately overrode the recommendation of the task force, he felt the process the campus community engaged in was a positive one.
Bob Frankenberg, chair of the college’s Board of Trustees remarked, “We carefully considered this issue and participated in the dialogue with members of the Westminster community. The conversation that developed was extraordinarily helpful in illuminating the issues we were considering. I was particularly struck by the passion in the responses we received. The deep and sincere emotion that permeated the discussion reflected the profound attachment to Westminster that so many feel.”
“While many people agreed that neither “college” nor “university” adequately describes Westminster today, most indicated that they think about Westminster in terms of our unusually strong focus on students and their learning. Both alumni and current students spoke about how their experiences at Westminster profoundly transformed their sense of themselves and the world around them. They acknowledged that Westminster not only prepares students for successful careers, but it sets them on a quest to become lifelong learners. Almost without exception, they talked about how the Westminster experience turned them into active and engaged learners,” concluded Bassis.
Westminster is a nationally ranked college focused exclusively on student learning. With its graduate and undergraduate programs and its emphasis on both the liberal arts and professional studies, Westminster offers students an active approach to learning, a vibrant campus community and real world experiences. These are further enriched with the opportunities presented by our unique location, adjacent to the Rocky Mountains and to a vibrant urban center. For more information visit www.westminstercollege.edu .