On 31 March 2016, George Mason University announced the renaming of their law school in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who had passed away the previous month. An official press release bearing that date announced the new naming of that institution as “The Antonin Scalia School of Law”:
George Mason University today announces pledges totaling $30 million to the George Mason University Foundation to support the School of Law. The gifts, combined, are the largest in university history, and will help establish three new scholarship programs that will potentially benefit hundreds of students seeking to study law at Mason.
In recognition of this historic gift, the Board of Visitors has approved the renaming of the school to The Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University.
“This is a milestone moment for the university,” said George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera. “These gifts will create opportunities to attract and retain the best and brightest students, deliver on our mission of inclusive excellence, and continue our goal to make Mason one of the preeminent law schools in the country.”
The announcement caused a flurry of interest on social media, not only because of Scalia’s large presence (and relatively recent death), but also because of the unfortunate acronyms/abbreviations (ASSOL) immediately bestowed upon the institution:
— David Lat (@DavidLat) March 31, 2016
On 5 April 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that adjustments had already been made to the law school’s new name:
Days after George Mason University’s law school announced that it was renaming itself after Justice Antonin Scalia, the school is slightly adjusting what it’s calling itself — thanks to unforeseen and unfortunate wordplay.
The name, officially, remains “The Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University” in honor of the late justice who died in February. But on its website and marketing materials, the name now reads: “The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University”.
That’s no accident.
The first five words of the “School of Law” version form an acronym that has a phonetic resemblance to a vulgarity, a source of amusement for some bloggers and tweeters and a source of non-amusement for George Mason’s administration, which agreed to rename itself after Justice Scalia at the request of an anonymous donor who pledged $20 million.
An edited version of the original announcement hosted on George Mason University’s web site reflected that change:
In recognition of this historic gift, the Board of Visitors has approved the renaming of the school to the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.
However, cached copies of the announcement (linked above) displayed the original wording:
While the institution declined to comment to the media, George Mason School of Law Dean Harry N. Butler delicately acknowledged the “acronym controversy” in an undated e-mail addressed to “Students and Alumni”:
Under the terms of the anonymous gift, we are authorized to use a variety of different names. The name initially announced — The Antonin Scalia School of Law — has caused some acronym controversy on social media. The Antonin Scalia Law School is a logical substitute. We anticipate the naming will be effective on July 1, 2016 pending final approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
As the e-mail said, the Antonin Scalia Law School (formerly the Antonin Scalia School of Law) would be named pending final approval in July 2016.
Gershman, Jacob. “George Mason Tinkers with Name of Scalia Law School to Avoid Awkward Acronym.”
The Wall Street Journal. 5 April 2016.
George Mason University News at Mason. “Mason Receives $30 Million in Gifts; Renames Law School After Justice Antonin Scalia.”
31 March 2016.