This afternoon I stopped at a local store near the Bangor Mall to buy the New York Times and had a brief and pleasant chat with the young lady behind the counter. She is very pleased with her undergraduate education to date, which was wonderful to hear. But she referred to the University of Maine as UMO, something usually restricted to middle-aged or elderly folks who recall using that name before it was changed in 1986. I was taken aback but said nothing.
I know that in 1986 UMO–the University of Maine at Orono–was replaced by the University of Maine (nothing more) because my communications in that year as a newly hired faculty member included the official announcement. What might at first glance seem like a trivial issue is definitely not.
As the University of Maine System is now branding itself as “One University: Seven Campuses”–with the specifics being decided upon by the powers that be–it has become a matter of concern to many Orono faculty, staff, students, and alumni that the flagship campus still remain the flagship, and in more than name only. It is common for flagship campuses at many public university systems to retain the flagship identity–the University of Wisconsin plain and simple, for example–with other, usually smaller campuses designated as “at Parkside” or “at Stevens Point” or wherever. Dropping “UMO” and “at Orono” back in 1986 was intended to restore the uniqueness to the state of Maine of the Orono campus, one of America’s original land-grant institutions.
Consequently, renewed efforts might be made to abandon using UMO from all quarters precisely as the ongoing reconfiguration of the System’s seven campuses will be complicated enough, no matter how the University of Maine emerges in due course.