What’s in a name? Well, for California State University, Long Beach the question is more accurately – What is your name? Throughout the University’s 68-year history, it has had no less than five official names, one interim name and one name that only the athletics program uses. Sheesh. No wonder the campus is having a bit of an identity crisis. Let’s take a look at the history of the many names of that-state-college-in-Long-Beach.
1949: Los Angeles-Orange County State College is founded. In January of 1949, California State Legislators called for a new college to serve the population living in South Los Angeles and Orange Counties. They cited an “urgent need,” and for the college to be completed at the “earliest possible moment.” World War II had ended four years prior, and newly released servicemen and women were pouring into the collegiate system. Thanks to the GI Bill that granted stipends covering tuition and expenses for veterans attending colleges and trade schools, colleges in California were bursting at the seams. A temporary site for the University was found in Long Beach, thanks to the generous donation of a newly built, empty apartment building by East Long Beach developer Lloyd Whaley, and classes began in September of 1949. But because no one knew where the permanent college location would be, the university was given the temporary moniker of Los Angeles-Orange County State College for the area it was intended to serve.
1950: Long Beach State College became the first official - and presumably permanent - name of the college after Long Beach voters approved a plan in June 1950 to use $1 million in oil money to purchase 320 acres of bean fields - just east of the college’s temporary location – to build a permanent university. The college thanked the city by renaming the university Long Beach State College, in honor of the citizens of Long Beach who voted to donate the land.
1964: California State College at Long Beach became the third name for the college. The University’s website notes that it was one of the most controversial changes of the year, which reflected the changing “college scene” overall.
1968: California State College, Long Beach was established as the result of a massive revamp of the state college system by the California State Legislature. In order to bring all the CSC colleges in line, the Chancellor’s Office requested that all the colleges in the system lead with “California State College, [insert your location here].” Some colleges complied, some didn’t. CSCLB was one of the obedient campuses; after all they did have the Chancellor’s Office right in their backyard.
1972: California State University, Long Beach became the fourth “official” name – fifth name total, if you’re counting – of the college. During this year, the “State Colleges” system’s name is changed to “The California State University and Colleges” system, having met set criteria to promote select colleges to universities. (Explained simply, “universities” offer undergraduate AND graduate degree programs, “colleges” only offer undergraduate programs.) Fourteen state campuses are designated “universities” – CSULB among them – while five campuses remain “colleges.”
Sometime Amidst All The Back And Forth: Long Beach State (without the “University”) became the official moniker for the college when it came to anything having to do with athletics. Staff writers for the school’s student run newspaper, the Daily 49er, will be quick to note that if you are a sports reporter you do not say CSULB!
2017: Long Beach State University is the “new” name that the campus will be called “for the foreseeable future,” according to an email sent out to the university’s executive team, as reported by the Press-Telegram. Is this name set in stone? No. But CSULB…I mean LBSU…President Jane Close Conoley hopes that this is a step in the right direction to a more unified university and permanent name.
Whatever the University’s name ends up being, the school’s unstoppable spirit and “insane commitment to removing barriers that prevent student success” remain. And while this author – who is also a LBSU professor and alum - is wholly for reducing confusion and unifying the campus under one name; at the end of the day it’s the character of the people within the university that truly create LBSU’s identity.