Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) in northwestern Wisconsin has announced it will change its name next year after a survey found that the current name was misleading and unrecognizable, especially with younger people and those outside the district. The rebranding, announced on October 30, will take effect in the fall semester of 2021.
A consultant hired by the college conducted a survey that analyzed the responses of focus groups including students, alumni, community members, and employees. Out of 1,600 respondents, they discovered that roughly one-fourth of people between 18 to 34 years of age — the school’s target market for students — associated the name with a tribal college.
Last of Many Names
The college has changed its moniker multiple times in the past to attract students.
It started off in 1912 as the Industrial, Commercial, Continuing Evening School, and changed its name to the Wisconsin Indianhead Vocational, Technical and Adult Education District in 1972, where the colloquial term “Indianhead” was first used. Six years later, the name was changed to Wisconsin Indianhead Technical Institute. In 1987 the college’s current name was made.
While the name “Indianhead” was not the sole reason for the university to call in a consultant, results showed that it was time for the school to update its brand.
Exciting changes ahead! We are thrilled to announce that WITC will be changing its name, and we want YOU to help us pick a new name and mascot! Submit your name and mascot suggestions by November 6 at https://t.co/SviM77rmck! pic.twitter.com/EDmL9AEmpH
— WITC (@WITCollege4U) October 30, 2020
School President John Will explained that it is a reference to the shape of Wisconsin’s border with Minnesota, which looks like the profile of a Native American chieftain.
“Even for people who don’t find it offensive, it’s not viewed as a very modern name. The identity has just waned over time to the point where it created confusion over who we are,” he explained to the Wisconsin State Journal.
WITC is making the move amid demographic challenges for colleges and universities in the area, who are competing over a shrinking pool of students as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Getting With the Times
The Wisconsin college is not the only institution to change its name, as more sports teams and schools are distancing themselves from names and mascots that are considered offensive or racist.
Earlier this year, Washington’s NFL team announced that they would no longer be referring to themselves as the “Redskins,” with the Cleveland Indians also confirming that a name change was in the works.
The state of Rhode Island, which is short for Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is also putting the removal of the “Providence Plantations” part of the name to a vote.