UNC Leaders Want Abbreviation Change

The official name is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but some administrators are looking for a new abbreviation.

UNC-CH Chancellor James Moeser and University officials are trying to phase out the "UNC-CH" abbreviation in favor of the more specific "UNC-Chapel Hill," "UNC" or simply "Carolina."

"This falls into a desire of Chancellor Moeser, of really the entire leadership, to have an integrated approach to present Carolina to the world," said UNC-CH Provost Robert Shelton. "This UNC-CH is a rather unappetizing pronunciation, and it eliminates one of the major factors, namely (the town of) Chapel Hill."

Moeser already has begun changing the way in which he refers to the University in letters and on office stationery, The Herald-Sun reported Dec. 26.

The N.C. General Assembly determines the official names of the 16 UNC-system campuses, but abbreviations are dictated by the university community.

Joni Worthington, UNC-system associate vice president for communications, said most schools have one or more abbreviations for themselves. She pointed to Appalachian State University, which is called "ASU," "Appalachian" or simply "App" by students and others.

Rosalind Fuse-Hall, UNC-system secretary, said most North Carolinians are familiar with the UNC-system abbreviations for various campuses, but others outside the state could get confused.

Fuse-Hall added that system officials use "UNC" to denote "one corporate body which has 16 member institutions." But she said most people outside North Carolina think about UNC-CH when they hear UNC.

Sports broadcasters and the news media often refer to UNC-CH as North Carolina or Carolina. Viewers of the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl in Atlanta and other nationally televised University sports events saw the abbreviation UNC next to the score. Officials said such discrepancies made the UNC-CH designation more confusing.

"For any organization, for any university, there is a consistent way that it is presented to people," Shelton said.

But Worthington said UNC-CH is known to many people, although the abbreviation that is most readily identifiable to them varies. "The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has had its current name for 40 years," Worthington said. "It certainly has name recognition, especially in the state of North Carolina."

Shelton said that with time one name could become accepted. "You do it by having consistency in all of the material you put out," he said. "It's called integrated marketing."

But some officials said universalizing the abbreviation might be more difficult than it seems. Worthington said it takes time for a name ingrained in people's minds to change and there is no guarantee that a new abbreviation will stick, she said.

Worthington said, "It's not realistic to think that you can get every publication and every individual using one abbreviation."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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