On March 10, the campus received an all-student email urging the members of the campus community to refer to the Athletics and Recreation Center by its new official name (as of Feb. 20): the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center. Because it was a campus-wide email, many students probably deleted the email without looking at it carefully, if at all. I remember reading it and shrugging and then proceeding to delete it. New emails from Tom Fisher, the director of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center, had the full name of the center typed out in the headings, but then, this was only a reflection of the fact that, well, the building’s name had officially changed. I didn’t think anything of it.
Then Monday, the night of Point News meetings, came around.
As you have probably noticed, The Point News has a policy of giving the full name of associations or buildings on the first reference, and then the abbreviation on the second reference. For example, the Student Environmental Action Coalition becomes SEAC, and the Athletics and Recreation Center becomes the ARC, or at least it used to. Now, after some discussion with the Point News staff, we’re still not sure what the Michael P.O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center would officially become upon abbreviation. An email sent out a week or so ago abbreviated it to MPOARC. In the Point News room, we had discussed the possibility of MPO’BARC, or MPOBARC (without the apostrophe, for those who think that MPO’BARC looks too much like a chant from an H. P. Lovecraft story). Either way, whether we use MPOARC or MPO’BARC or MPOBARC, this poses a problem for us.
The purpose of acronyms is to allow a text to become easier for its audience to read. Ideally, the reader is already familiar with the acronym used, and so slogging through the wordiness of full titles becomes a non-issue. Even if the reader is unfamiliar with the full name of whatever is being abbreviated, the abbreviation still makes reading easier and less wordy. This is especially necessary in journalism, where wordiness is the easiest way to get a reader to put the newspaper down and to switch on the TV instead. Therefore, the whole notion of using MPOBARC as an acronym makes very little sense. Not only are most students and faculty unused to seeing this acronym or any of its variants in print, but the sheer use of so many capital letters in one acronym–which can’t even be pronounced like a word in itself, as can, say, UNICEF–would actually make the reader slow down every time the acronym popped up in print. This is counterproductive.
We talked about this as a staff, and taking this into account, decided that we would now refer to what was the Athletics and Recreation Center as the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center on first reference, and the old usage of ARC on all other references to make articles read more smoothly.
I would also like to add that none of us have anything against Michael P. O’Brien. None of us resent that the athletics building is now named after him. I do, however, wonder why the ARC is the only building that seems to have drawn administrative attention regarding the use of its proper name. I rarely see emails calling the River Center the James P. Muldoon River Center (JPMRC?), even though Muldoon is the chair of the Board of Trustees while O’Brien is a trustee that to my knowledge holds no special rank within the Board. The Health Center’s official name is Ethel Chance Hall (ECH? ECHC?), named after a nurse who worked at the Health Center for 32 years, although I have never seen or heard anyone call it that (except maybe on some of the campus maps). If any of us at the Point News just missed the memo on any of these names, then we’d be happy to rectify this and begin including other proper names as part of the first reference wording of these buildings ‘ names. Until then, Ethel Chance Hall is the Health Center, the James P. Muldoon River Center is the River Center, and the Michael P. O’Brien ARC is the ARC–after the first reference.