FAQ: Uptown Campus Building Name Changes

Why is the University changing the names of some buildings?

These name changes are necessary because of the ongoing renovations to academic and administrative buildings on the Uptown Campus, many of which are named after the colleges and academic departments that first occupied them, e.g., Business Administration and Education. While that naming system made sense when the campus first opened in the mid-1960s, it has begun to sow confusion as the buildings undergo renovations that require permanently relocating their occupants.

For example: The Business Administration Building on the Podium, also known as Building 27, is currently undergoing a gut renovation that is expected to be complete this fall. Once complete, Building 27 will be the new home of the School of Education and other departments (the School of Business having already relocated to the Massry Center for Business). The old Education Building, also known as Building 35, will go offline for renovation next and will eventually house new academic departments as well.

In order to avoid confusion between the new and old homes of these schools, the University must rename these buildings. Clear wayfinding is important not just for students, faculty, staff and campus guests but also for emergency responders.

Why not just rename the buildings after the new occupants?

The occupants of campus buildings will always be fluid as the University’s space needs evolve, so simply renaming the buildings after their new occupants is not a viable long-term solution. It is also common for more than one school or college to occupy space in the same building.

As a result, the Building Naming Advisory Work Group – which included representation by students, faculty and staff – recommended moving away from naming most buildings for their primary function or occupants to provide maximum long-term flexibility for University spaces. The Work Group did recognize, however, that it would make sense to allow some buildings like the Performing Arts Center or Physical Education building to retain their use-based names because it is highly unlikely that they will be repurposed from their original intended use.

Overall, the Work Group endorsed seven guiding principles for the University to consider when renaming buildings. They are:

1. Renaming of buildings should be avoided if possible

Changing an existing building’s name involves considerable expense to implement (signage, building-control systems, mapping, scheduling software, etc.) and will be confusing to the campus community and first responders. Hence, building names should be changed only when warranted by other overriding considerations consistent with the guiding principles herein.

2. Names should assist wayfinding and navigation needs

Building names should be unique and distinctive enough to ease wayfinding and identification for the University community and for first responders and should not be confusing, identical to, or sound, or spelled too similar to, existing building names.

3. Any new naming system should be easily applied for long-term University use

Future campus leadership should be able to add buildings with new names or change building names under a naming convention that is intuitive, timeless and easily expanded.

4. Generally, building names should not be primarily based on building occupants

In many instances, current names for Uptown Campus buildings that are tied to specific departments, use, or occupancy are already, or will one day become, obsolete as occupants will be relocated to alternate buildings for renovation needs. As of this date, the primary examples are the Business Administration Building and the Education Building, neither of which will house departments or functions related to the name.

5. However, selected buildings tied to occupancy and use can retain their name

There are certain buildings that are constructed for very specific uses with specialized architectural and engineering features that make it highly unlikely they would ever be significantly altered from their original, intended use, hence the building name can be retained. Examples include the Performing Arts Center, the Lecture Center, the Physical Education Building, etc.

6. General, broadly acceptable names that invoke higher education as well as those referencing regional geography are favored over names of individuals

General names (“University Hall”) and geographic names ("Adirondack Hall") are preferred as they are not tied to a specific use, individual or period of time, especially since notions of reverence for certain history or persons may evolve as societal standards and mores evolve. Moreover, general or geographic names are preferred as well, as they are easily adaptable for future donor naming opportunities (for example, “Boor Sculpture Studio”). University buildings are valuable assets and donor naming opportunities are a key component of major gifts.

7. Names should strive to convey the values, priorities, and character of the University

Where possible, names should reflect the ideals of the University. Hence, a renaming convention that is based solely on its official building number (“Building 27”) or its relative location on the Podium (for example, “NW Podium Building A”) is rejected.

Why name the buildings after prominent natural and geographic features of New York?

UAlbany is proud to be the SUNY campus that serves the state capital, the political center of New York. Our students hail from all corners of the state and as such the University sought a naming scheme that would honor both the geographic diversity of our student body as well as the natural beauty of New York.

In accordance with the guiding principles endorsed by the Work Group, this naming convention is timeless, distinctive, easily expanded and serves to engender pride in our state.

Why not name the buildings after prominent alumni or historic figures?

The Work Group considered several possible naming conventions, including naming buildings for prominent alumni or historic figures. The Work Group rejected this idea on the premise that building names should be timeless and that perceptions of individuals and history are not universal and may change over time.

The Work Group also noted that the naming of buildings for individuals should generally be reserved for fundraising opportunities, in accordance with University and SUNY policy.

Who has the authority to choose and approve the new names?

According to SUNY policies and procedures 9251 and 9252, the president of the University is authorized to name and rename buildings subject to University Council approval. There are two notable exceptions: 1) buildings shall not be named for current SUNY employees, and 2) if a name is associated with a gift, any such gift at or above $1 million also requires the SUNY chancellor and trustees’ approval.

The University’s senior leadership, however, felt it was important to include the broader UAlbany community in the decision-making process. That is why the Building Naming Advisory Work Group was charged with developing a framework to guide the renaming process and why the campus community is being asked to vote on the final names for Building 27, Building 35 and Building 25 (the former Health and Counseling Center now occupied by the departments of Africana Studies and Economics and the Office of Equity and Compliance).

The Work Group’s membership included representation from Facilities, the Department of Geography and Planning, Student Association, Graduate Student Association, Alumni Association, University Archives, Office of Communications and Marketing and an at-large student representative. The Work Group convened in fall 2018 and met six times throughout the semester.

Why not rename all the buildings at once?

The Work Group considered the possibility of renaming all of the current and future buildings identified as renaming candidates at once but concluded that doing so would be impractical, overly confusing and too costly. Gradually renaming the buildings as the Podium renovation schedule progresses was viewed as the least disruptive, most cost-effective and rational approach.