SLU or SELU?

by James Erdmann


Posted on 4 January 2017 at 4:00 PM | Updated on 19 January 2017 at 11:00 AM



By What Name Should the Museum be Referred?

There is a persistent problem that people associated with Southeastern Louisiana University face: should the Vertebrate Museum, and the university more generally, be referred to in its initialized/acronymized form as "SLU" or "SELU"?

First, a few things are clear (though not in combination, as we will see). 1) According to the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologist's (ASIH) Standard Symbolic Codes for Institutional Resource Collections in Herpetology & Ichthyology, the natural history collections maintained at Southeastern Louisiana University are assigned the abbreviation "SLU1." This resource is the standard and most widely used international reference for herpetological and ichthyological collections, providing each major collection with a unique abbreviation for facilitating communication and minimizing confusion. 2) Tied to #1, the catalog numbering scheme we use for all lots and specimens across collections appears as "SLU #####" for as long as we have been formally called Southeastern Louisiana University. 3) According to the Southeastern University Policies and Manuals Web Content and Style Guidelines and the University Name Usage, Neither SLU nor SELU should be used to refer to Southeastern as a whole; Southeastern is the only appropriate shortening for the institution. Further, SLU is supposed to be reserved exclusively for the Athletic Department. Therefore, while SLU is the formal abbreviation for the vertebrate museum from one resource, it should not be used to refer to the institution that the museum resides within from another. This is a little confusing. Many larger collections, such as UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ), have their own code that distinguish it from the institution at large.

I should emphasize that standard lists such as that of the ASIH or the Insect and Spider Collections of the World, establish and maintain the names of the natural history collections specifically, not the larger institutions they may be a part of; they make no claims to manage the names of universities, buildings, governments, etc. that support these collections.

Now that some technical details are out of the way, one may be left wondering, "How did these abbreviations arise in the first place?" I believe a few things are at play, including the great Domain Name Gold Rush of the mid 1990s.

Southeastern was fist established as Hammond Junior College way back in 1925, and from 1928 to 1970, we were called Southeastern Louisiana College 2. As far as I can tell, the abbreviation SLC at this time was welcome. After we gained university status in 1970, There was a concomitant shift to use the abbreviation SLU2. With the advent of the World Wide Web in the mid-1990's, Southeastern joined the hunt for a fitting university domain name. These names (ending in ".edu") are regulated by EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association "committed to advancing higher education3." There was just one problem: the most obvious choices for a domain name of slu.edu or southeastern.edu, had already been claimed by Saint Louis University and Southeastern University, respectively. What was the next best choice? selu.edu, of course. And so a new abbreviation and website of Southeastern was born. It probably existed at some level of use prior, to be fair. Southeastern University in Washington D.C., owning both domains of southeastern.edu and seu.edu lost its accreditation in 2010 and shortly thereafter forfeited its domain names, closed, and was replaced with Graduate School USA4. Southeastern Louisiana University, with the help of Erin Cowser (Executive Director of Public and Governmental Affairs), was quick to snatch the newly available domain name of southeastern.edu. Southeastern University, a private Christian university in FL, captured seu.edu (it previously held seuniversity.edu). Today, Southeastern Louisiana University owns both domains of southeastern.edu and selu.edu, though southeastern.edu is the preferred.

To add to the confusion, all members of the university are regularly exposed to both "SLU" and "SELU". Every student and employee of Southeastern bears an email ending with the largely unused domain name "@selu.edu". The reason for this likely being continuity from the university's initial web appearance in 1997. Meanwhile, the university departmental addresses are all SLU (e.g., the Department of Biological Sciences is SLU Box 10736), with physical addresses existing before digital ones. We are sometimes fallaciously referred to as "LSU". Many would take offense to such a remark, but to be fair purple and gold can be seen around Hammond as easily as green and gold.

Interestingly, Saint Louis University's collections are symbolized as STL1. Had they had an established natural history collection before us, perhaps the museum would be cataloging specimens with the code SELU. Alas, we are certainly not SELU by any measure. Nor is the school SLU. The museum, according to ourselves and international standards, can and should be referred to as SLU. But within the university as a whole, this is not practical or acceptable. As unceremonious a conclusion it may be, it seems SLU is an initialism that refers to multiple things, both formally and informally. Informally, it refers to Southeastern Louisiana University. At the same level, it formally applies to the Athletic Department of Southeastern. Concurrently, it refers to the Southeastern Louisiana University Vertebrate Museum through a different system. SELU is a sad byproduct of Southeastern not being quick enough to nab the perfect domain name, and should not be used in anything but an email.

For one last thought, there is occasionally a question of the complete name of the museum. This, over the lifetime of the collection, has been more labile than the institutional code, but appears stable for the time being. the Southeastern Louisiana University Vertebrate Museum, not the Natural History Museum, not the Biology Museum, not the Museum of Vertebrates, is the formal name we use. Of course these titles are perfectly acceptable as descriptors for the museum, but their use should be limited to prevent confusion. The name of the SLU Vertebrate Museum (or SLUVM) for short, has changed over time, most obviously because the museum existed before the university was a university. Previous titles include Southeastern Louisiana College Vertebrate Museum and Southeastern Louisiana University Zoology Museum.

At 1:57 pm on January 18th, 2017, the Southeastern Mass Mail system delivered an email stating that our primary emails should be migrated to the new ending of @southeastern.edu since we finally gained full access to the domain (although our @selu.edu will continue working). One more nail in the coffin for the dreadful initialism of SELU.
Transcript:

Welcome to Spring 2017 at Southeastern!
January 18, 2017

As we get the semester started, there are a few quick reminders we'd like to share with everyone.

Our website is southeastern.edu.

We are Southeastern. Our student-athletes represent SLU.

Our emails are @southeastern.edu.

For decades our university struggled with having multiple monikers. Use of selu.edu for our website and email stems back to the onset of the Internet when, much to our dismay, the domains southeastern.edu and slu.edu were already taken.

This is no longer the case. We were finally able to secure southeastern.edu as our official web address and make @southeastern.edu official for all our campus emails.

Technology has allowed us to still retain use of our old domain name for both web address and email use, but it should no longer be the primary use. This simply means that you can still type in www.selu.edu or if someone emails you at yourname@selu.edu, they'll both still work. This was done for all of you who have the selu.edu address set in your bookmarks and contacts. Old habits die hard, but with a little effort going forward, we can collectively present a succinct identity for our great institution.

We ask that you please help us strengthen the Southeastern identity moving forward.

Use southeastern.edu. Tell new contacts your email is @southeastern.edu. Cheer on the SLU Lions!

We're glad you're a member of the Southeastern family. It's going to be a great spring semester.

Credits:

My biggest resource on this article was the Internet Archive. With it, I was able to get a more detailed timeline of the transfers of domain name ownership and track institutions' online histories from stochastic web crawlers. Beth Stahr, Professor and Head of Reference and Instruction at Southeastern's Sims Memorial Library, verified some of my conjecture and provided additional resources. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.

References:

  1. Sabaj M.H. 2016. Standard symbolic codes for institutional resource collections in herpetology and ichthyology: an Online Reference. Version 6.5 (16 August 2016). Electronically accessible at http://www.asih.org/, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Washington, DC.
  2. History. http://www.southeastern.edu/about/history/ Accessed 2 January 2017.
  3. About EDUCAUSE. https://www.educause.edu/about Accessed 2 January 2017.
  4. de Vise, D. 2010. Southeastern U. acquired by another school in D.C. The Washington Post – Higher Education 6 March 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/05/AR2010030503859.html Accessed 2 January 2017.

The SLU Vertebrate Museum Blog

is a blog for those interested in the general activity of the museum, the major happenings, and those curious about some of the finer details of the collections and their caretakers.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are not endorsed, funded, or controlled by the Administration at Southeastern Louisiana University.