At a news conference last week, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla of the University of California, San Diego, said that to meet the school's $2 billion fundraising goal, the naming rights for "everything we have" were for sale. Today, Khosla revealed that since his announcement, the University has taken in pledges totaling more than $300 million.
Asked to explain what had prompted the sudden flood of donations, Khosla said, "I think the turning point was a call I received from one of our most famous alumni, Mike Judge. He asked if we'd be willing to rename two of our sophomores 'Beavis' and 'Butt-Butthead.' I immediately said we'd do it, and because he'd given me such a powerful idea I told him he could choose the sexes."
Khosla said that when word spread of the "Rename-a-Student for UCSD" program, his phone rang off the hook. "I barely had a chance to say 'Hello.' I'd pick up the phone and someone would say, 'I'll give you twenty thousand for two dozen Christian juniors,' or 'I'll pledge whatever it takes for a gross of Greeks, as long as they're not suspended.' In one case, I heard from a guy with a very familiar voice who said he wanted to give us a huge amount of money for all the 'hot chicks' on campus. That one I had to refuse, because I'm near-sighted.
Asked how students were reacting to the program, Khosla acknowledged he had some work to do.
There has definitely been some pushback. The number one complaint seems to be that students don't like the names we've assigned them.
For example, junior Irving Rosenberg feels the name 'Thurston Howell III' doesn't capture who he is. Similarly, a senior named Butch Ducati refuses to adopt the name 'Harley Fiorina,' even though he's already got a motorcycle for a last name. Go figure.
Personally, I think these students are being short-sighted. First, a lot of them need to get new lives, and a name change is a good place to start. When I see these information technology majors walking around in mukluks and chewing the strings on their crocheted caps, I think how different their lives would be if they had names like Lance Armstrong or Neil Armstrong or Louis Armstrong. The Rename-a-Student program is going to give these people a second chance at life.
The other thing students have ignored is that this program is going to make UCSD feel like a family again. It's literally going to reintroduce us to one another. Everyone's going to be walking around campus wearing a tag with his new name on it so he can remind himself who he is. That means people won't just say 'Hi' when they pass. They're going to say 'Hi Rudolph' or 'Whassup Murray' or 'You lookin' good, Ramona,' because they know they're not going to get the other person's name wrong. Sure, there will be times when a student doesn't know that someone is saying hello to her because she can't remember her own name, but everyone over the age of sixty has that same problem and you don't hear them complaining very loudly.
Khosla concluded the interview with a reflection on the future.
Rename-a-Student is a fundraising breakthrough, and I predict that places like Harvard, Yale and Liberty are going to climb on the bandwagon before the year is out. But I'm not going to let grass grow under my feet. I plan to take this idea to the next level, to offer naming rights to our faculty and staff members, and maybe even to the stem cells they're playing with over in the School of Medicine.
If you can believe it, I even got a call from someone who's willing to make a six figure donation in exchange for the right to rename me. And while it's going to take some time getting used to the name 'Satan,' I feel I've got to act as a role model for this community because, after all, everything I do shapes both our self-image and our reputation in the world at large.