By Jacob Stockinger
Well, it has happened again.
As of July 1, the official name of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music is now the Mead Witter School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
That’s an ungainly mouthful to say and write.
But The Ear doesn’t blame the School of Music and its directors for having to take such steps.
To The Ear, the renaming means that the state legislators and the state government have once again been negligent in preserving and bettering this great institution that generations of ordinary Wisconsin citizens supported through taxes, and then benefitted from through “The Wisconsin Idea” that the university serves the public that supports it.
Underfunding goes along with the Republicans’ anti-education and anti-intellectual agenda of imposing steep budget cuts, undermining tenure, alienating faculty who then leave and implementing other measures that hurt this great state university.
So, The Ear objects to the move, much as he did with the selling of the Law School; with the renaming of the Elvehjem Museum of Art to the Chazen Museum of Art; and with the Wisconsin Union Theater, which was renamed Shannon Hall (below top).
Plus, there is the new music building and performance center (below bottom), which sees a groundbreaking in late October, named — not renamed — for the Hamel family.
Such naming and renaming by big private money blurs the distinction between a donation or a gift and a purchase. Call it branding, naming, PR, advertising, whatever – The Ear doesn’t like it. What is public should remain public.
Do the egos of the wealthy really know no bounds, especially during these days when the political talk is of wealth inequality and income distribution?
So The Ear says a deep and hearty thank you to the Mead Witter Foundation of Wisconsin Rapids for its help.
But he sure wishes its corporate ego had been satisfied with a hall or a building being named after it, and with perhaps a big bronze bas-relief plaque containing a history about its fortune in the paper industry and an appreciation of its generous philanthropy.
But to rename an entire school that has more than a century of history behind it?
Sorry. That’s over the top.
It is overkill and seems downright tacky.
To The Ear it will always be the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, just as it has for the past century-plus.
If you want more background and details, here are three official UW links, with the most recent ones coming first
What do readers and the tax-paying public think and say?
Do you agree or disagree with The Ear?
The Ear wants to hear.