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What's in a name?

At this University, it is possible to have an entire conversation using only acronyms -- StudCo, the BOV and UGS to name just a few. Almost every major group on Grounds has its own abbreviation or acronym, and once the code is decrypted it becomes relatively easy to figure out what each group does.

But one organization that is something of a novelty because it uses its whole name has nonetheless remained under a cloak of ambiguity. This organization is University Union, recently renamed the University Programs Council.

Apparently, confusion about the organization's identity is a fairly common occurrence.

"We've gotten plenty of people calling before and asking whether we're connected to a labor union of some kind," said Brian Ahern, executive coordinator for the University Programs Council.

But this organization never did and never will have a connection to the organized labor movement -- or government, for that matter. This group exists purely for entertainment purposes.

Lots of entertainment.

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  • University Programs Council

    So to emphasize its commitment to entertainment, the organization officially was christened the University Programs Council on July 1. Student Council approved and voted on the name change in February of last spring.

    "We wanted a title that would state our purpose within the name, something that would really stand out to people," Ahern said.

    Carolyn Bleck, chair of the comedy and variety committee within the Council, agreed that University Union was an unclear name. "With this new name, students won't walk by the office without knowing who we are," Bleck said.

    She thinks it is important that the student body be aware of the UPC's role within the University. "A lot of events UPC sponsors are really different and contribute to college memories," Bleck said.

    Wedged in an inconspicuous corner next to the Bakery on the first floor of Newcomb Hall, the UPC offices are lined with gray cubicles. Each of the cubicles serves as an office for one of the 10 different committees that make up the UPC. Seated on a navy sofa in a corner of the spacious office area, Ahern described how, prior to the name change, the majority of students did not associate the entertainment committees with the University Union.

    But Ahern said he believes the new, more specific title will bridge the gap in people's minds between the individual committees and the larger organization.

    "People were familiar with a group like PK German and what they do, but might not have had any idea that PK German was actually a part of University Union. When we included the word 'Programs' in the new name, we thought it would be much easier for people to tell who we are and what we do," Ahern said.

    Ahern added that many people also are not familiar with the fact that the UPC oversees many of the instructional programs on Grounds, such as short courses in areas like bartending and watercolor painting.

    Along with the new name, Ahern hopes to foster a new image for the UPC. Although the Council lingered around Grounds for the past 68 years, Ahern is seeking to bring the organization even closer to the student body.

    "We want to reassert ourselves as the main programming body on Grounds," Ahern said.

    He explained that $14 out of every student's activity fee is funneled into the University Programs Council budget each year to bring activities such as Tom DeLuca and the FunFest block party to the University. Since this money is allotted automatically for UPC use, Ahern wants to make the most of it.

    Plans to change the name have been brewing for the past few years and have been fueled by student assessment. Most of the input that the University Programs Council has received from students has been through formal surveys handed out at various events. They also have taken a more casual approach, approaching random audience members at events for their opinion of a show.

    Despite the name change, the focus of the organization will remain the same.

    "The structure and the way things are run won't really change. But we are hoping to bring a little more unity," membership coordinator Dean Dodson said. The Council wants its committees to work together more tightly, as a single unit.

    Dodson, who is in charge of recruiting and maintaining members, said the new name is much more descriptive. "If you've been here a few years then you can probably figure out who we are. Otherwise, you're kind of in the dark," he said.