Banker Sandy Weill recently withdrew the generous donation he’d made, out of the goodness of his altruistic little billionaire heart, to Paul Smith College after he learned that the school could not change it’s name to Weill-Smith College.
Not wanting to find himself similarly disappointed, Charles Widger, a successful hedge fund manager, explicitly stipulated that Villanova Law School should become the Villanova Charles Widger School of Law in exchange for his $25 million donation. (We just hope the school is spared the indignity of having his portrait splashed all over campus. Enrollments will nose dive.)
But can these really be described as “donations” at all? In what sense does it differ from when corporations buy the naming rights to sports stadiums? That practice is so well accepted that we might wonder why we don’t see more law schools named for branding-minded corporations. We’ve got the Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville; why not the Pizza Hut School of Law in St. Louis?
On the flip side, maybe Yalies would enjoy becoming the Tesla School of Law. Who would be the Bose School? Might Fordham in New York wind up the Trump Law School? That’d be yooooooooge! Then the Donald would have a whole cadre of Constitutional law professors issuing scholarly articles on Ted “Canuck” Cruz’s eligibility for the highest office in the nation.
The Patriots, one of the most dynastic of America’s football teams, play in a stadium named for a prominent purveyor of men’s hygiene products. Should a dynastic law school – Harvard, perhaps? – be named for Charmin? Or maybe the exclusivity factor militates for something more upper crust – Rolex School of Law, perhaps.
Schools out west need their own corporate identities as well. UC Berkeley is in a perpetual hippie milieu, so bye-bye Boalt Hall, and hello Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Hall! Southern California is a surfer’s paradise, and Stussy School of Law rolls of the tongue quite nicely as a replacement for UCLA School of Law.
I hope these are the questions running through the minds of future administrators as they consider strings-attached “donations” in the future. Got your own candidates for name upgrade? Leave a comment below.