Cheney Naming Elicits Opposition At U. Wyoming

This story was written by Caitlin White, Branding Iron

A controversy surrounding the name of the new Cheney International Center has arisen on the University of Wyoming campus.

International Programs Department Director Anne Alexander said there is possible misinterpretation on how the new international center received its name. The addition of Vice President Dick Cheneys name was because of his familys donation to the center, Alexander said.

When Cheney was elected he had to let go of several stocks; Cheney gave the proceeds from the sales to the university and worked with the foundation to decide where the proceeds should be given, Alexander said.

In 2006, Cheney and UW President Tom Buchanan held a meeting and decided the gift of Cheneys proceeds would be given in study abroad scholarships and the development of the international center.

There is a group on campus gaining supporters across the state that is opposed to the addition of Cheneys name to the centers title.

I understand their concerns, but I want to reassure everyone that the centers purpose is to promote internationalization and to create a focal point to get students involved in the global community, Alexander said.

Students Fred Vanden Heede and Suzy Pelican have spearheaded the opposition of the issue by sharing their concerns with newspapers across the state. The campus and its international programs cannot avoid being identified with the ideology behind giving the center such a name, Pelican said.

Heede and Pelican said that since the Bush administrations approach to international relations is widely criticized and controversial, it will saddle the center with an unnecessary burden of limited perspective. The two believe that the centers name will become part of the UWs institutional identity and affect peoples perceptions of the centers focus and activities.

It will narrow the type and diversity of future students, faculty, donors and other university partners drawn to international studies at UW, Heede and Pelican said.

The name of the center had no formal announcement. That might have added to the controversy, Alexander said, but the president, trustees and foundation of the university knew of the name, as well as many students.

There was nothing sneaky about how the center received its name, Alexander said.

Heede and Pelican, however, feel that with the granting of naming rights comes the responsibility to evaluate benefits and drawbacks. The two felt so strongly on the issue that they wrote a statement that will be sent to the UW administration and Board of Trustees. In the statement, Heede and Pelican discuss their problems with the naming and also respectfully request the evaluation process and criteria and the names of the individuals involved be made public.

Once completed, the Cheney International Center would group all departments involved with international programs into a section of the Health Sciences Building. Alexander said that putting all these departments together would allow them to do more than they would if they were apart.

We will be better equipped to show students the value of being a global citizen, Alexander said.

The center will not only house these departments, but will also have an international resource center, computer labs, classrooms, a conference room and library. It will be equipped to house registered student organization meetings, promote international events and allow international students to view important events in their country. The departments will be more streamlined, which will help with organization, Alexander said.

The Cheney International Center is expected to open in February or March of 2009.